Northbrook native fighting with IDF in northern Israel

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A Northbrook native is currently fighting in the Israel Defense Forces at the country's northern border.

32-year-old Fletcher Valentine grew up in Northbrook and attended Glenbrook North High School and Beloit College before moving to Israel for graduate school.

He joined the IDF in 2018, and was on reserve when U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

By the end of the day, he was called in and deployed north.

"We’re hearing about what happened, at the very same time I’m getting text messages from him over WhatsApp," his father David Valentine told NBC Chicago.

“The first one said ‘we were placed on standby.’ Maybe 20 minutes later he said ‘we’ve been activated,’ and maybe 10 minutes after that, he says ‘OK, we have a rally point and we’re going to the northern border.’”  

His troop is tasked with ensuring Hezbollah forces don't enter Israel.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi'a Islamist political and military group, is backed by Iran and is known to have thousands of rockets at their disposal.

“His job is to provide cover fire; his job is to be purely defensive," Valentine said.

But the task comes with a dangerous reality for the Illinois native.

“They’re being fired at every day," Valentine said. "There are mortars, there are rockets.” 

He said the past 20 days have been unlike anything his son experienced during active duty.

“My two biggest fears are that he’ll get shot. And the other one is that he’ll have to shoot somebody," he said. “The entire three years my son was active duty, he never had to fire his weapon at anyone else, but last week he did. There were snipers on another hilltop aiming at reservation post so they returned fire.”

Valentine tries to contact his son every day to check in. The emotions come in waves for their family; one stuck out and stopped David in his tracks during the Chicago Marathon, one day after his son deployed.

"There was a family holding Palestinian flags and a woman standing there, and I just stopped and I said, ‘we have to do better.' I just started to sob and said, ‘my son is up there and I don’t want anything to happen to anybody," he recalled. "The woman gave me a hug and said, ‘there’s enough space for all of us.’”

It's those moments that keep him hopeful for an end to the war, and an end to the worry.

“We’re trying to figure out how long, and it depends on everything, and what happens in Gaza," he said. "He will be a reservist for the next eight-plus years so if things happen, they will call him up again.”

He also says their family hopes for meaningful solutions between Israel and the Palestinian people, though sees the situation as complicated with Hamas' role in governing the Gaza Strip.

"Palestinians do need to have their own country," he said.

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