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Jerry White - United States of America

"I was only four years old when Syrian soldiers, retreating during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, laid Soviet-supplied mines in the Golan Heights. The soldiers no doubt hoped the mines would maim or kill Israeli troops. Instead, my mine waited silently in the ground for nearly seventeen years until it exploded under my foot and blew off my right leg.

"I was twenty years old. I had taken time from my university studies in the United States to explore the Middle East. I wasn't a soldier. I was armed with only a backpack and an Arabic and Hebrew dictionary. Two friends and I had decided to explore northern Israel on a hiking trip. We were looking for a place to camp and had no idea that we had entered a minefield. There was no fence and no sign to keep us out. The next morning, on a beautiful spring
day, I stepped on a mine. I can still remember the deafening blast and the smell of blood, burnt flesh and metal. Only when my friends rolled me over did they see the extent of my wounds. The explosion had ripped off my right foot, shrapnel had lacerated my skin, and my left leg was open and raw--with a bone sticking out of my calf. We screamed for help but it seemed that no one but God could hear. Either I would bleed to death, or my friends would have to carry me out of the minefield. Luckily we made it out without further loss.

"All the talk about fencing and marking minefields is a distraction from the real challenge: to stop the proliferation of landmines. I was injured in a country that takes pride in how well it has fenced and marked its minefields. But even in a small, security-conscious state like Israel, fences break down, signs fade, fall, or are stolen, and mines shift with changes in weather and soil erosion."

Today Jerry White is Co-founder and Executive Director of Landmine Survivors Network. Through editorials, public speaking, and news interviews, Mr. White has helped build public support for stopping the use of landmines. He has testified before Congress and published articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor and International Herald Tribune.

View the next profile: Alexi Balakhonstev

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