Not all 18-year-olds would give up a picturesque setting, and a comfortable life, to fight in another country’s military half a world away. However, that’s exactly what current Life Chiropractic College West student Sagi Hebron chose to do in 2012.
A native of sunny San Diego, Hebron is part of a Jewish family that has roots in Israel. Both of his parents were born there, and plenty of Hebron’s extended family members still reside in that country. After turning 18 and graduating high school, he made the decision to enlist in the Israeli military as a combat soldier.
“It was really important to me to give back to the place that made my parents and their families who they are,” Hebron explained. “Seeing them and how they were raised made me want part of that.”
“It changed my life. It made me who I am and really made me into a man.”
With the support and blessing of his parents, Hebron served from 2012 to 2015. From a cultural standpoint, the shock upon his arrival was minimal. Hebron’s mother is a Hebrew teacher, so he was already fluent in the language, and he had spent significant amounts of time in Israel in the past thanks to family vacations. However, Hebron’s time in the Israeli army was far from uneventful. His platoon’s duties included dealing with people and groups that posed imminent threats to citizens, and his recollections of exchanging fire with enemy fighters are hauntingly clear.
“I had a lot of combat for the time that I was there, more than a normal soldier would,” Hebron remembered. “In the summer of 2014, there was a lot going on. My whole unit had to do a lot of arrests of people who did really bad things.”
“It becomes really real when you’re getting shot at. The thought becomes, ‘these people are actually trying to kill me.’ That’s not something you understand when you’re in training, because you’re just firing your weapon at targets. There’s a feeling you get when you realize you can die at any point. Having that for a long time is really, really difficult. It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with.”
Hebron’s actions during the course of duty, and the leadership skills he put on display, did not go unnoticed by his commanding officers. Within six months, the young American was one of a select few from his platoon recommended for a special commander’s program, one where he welcomed the opportunity to get to know fellow soldiers from all walks of life.
“They chose seven people out of each platoon,” Hebron said when asked about the selection process. “We got sent for a four-month course, and that’s a mix of everyone from all units. It’s difficult, and I learned a lot really fast before getting sent into the field as a commander.”
Hebron welcomed the challenges the course presented, and he credits that particular experience with teaching him a valuable lesson.
“You learn to realize how much more you can do,” he explained. “Every day I went in and realized there was so much more I could give of myself. That really resonates with me and goes with me everywhere. I feel there’s no end to that.”
Hebron was offered the chance to stay in Israel beyond his initial tour of duty. However, he declined the invitation, and for good reason, as he had plenty of aspirations to pursue back in the United States.
Pursuing a chiropractic education
Hebron had undergone chiropractic care since childhood, and was a patient of Life West graduate Richard Stein, DC, who maintains a practice in La Jolla. After seeing and feeling the effects of such procedures, Hebron made the decision to pursue a career in the field.
“I just wanted to help people,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much chiropractic care helped me until I saw people who weren’t under chiropractic care and how many issues they would have that would be easily solved with chiropractic care. I realized that that is my passion, and I started community college right away after I got back to San Diego.”
Hebron knocked out his required preliminary coursework as quickly as possible following his return to the United States. He also began exploring possible chiropractic colleges, but as he did his research and networked with professionals in the field, one school kept popping up.
“I shadowed about 20 different doctors in San Diego,” Hebron said when asked about the process. “I asked all of them where I should go. I would say 90% of them said that I should go to Life West if I want the best education. That was a big deal for me, and I realized that this is the place I need to go.”
Always a leader
Hebron was accepted at Life West, and he began his studies in October of 2018. He has just completed his third quarter of studies, and has shown many of the same qualities that defined him as a soldier.
“Sagi is aware of the people around him, and he’s very solution-oriented,” Student Life Manager Dani Lorta said. “When he sees what a problem is, he wants to create a solution and bypass the stuff that sometimes gets in the way of problem-solving.”
Following Hebron’s arrival at Life West, he quickly became a vital member of several on-campus organizations. Most notably, when faculty, staff and students were concerned about the air quality in the building and needed members of a new task force, Hebron was ready to answer the call of duty.
“We saw that there was a problem,” he said. “A lot of people weren’t feeling well. There were complaints, and we said, ‘there’s something going on here that we’re missing.’ We started monitoring the air quality in all the rooms, 24 hours a day, every five minutes.”
Since Hebron joined the Indoor Air Quality Council, the group has made giant strides in improving the on-campus environment. Hebron was quick to credit Campus Operations Manager Michael Baldwin, who is behind both the app that monitors air quality and an algae-based air scrubber that removes up to 227 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. The council’s efforts have resulted in a marked improvement in on-campus air quality, and earlier this year the school was recognized by the City of Hayward, who bestowed upon it an Environmental Sustainability Award.
Additionally, Hebron joined the Life West student council as a class representative and threw himself into being one of the leaders of the student body. His efforts were recognized earlier this year, when he was elected the organization’s new secretary.
“He’s resourceful, intelligent, and a lovely person,” Lorta said. “He’s attentive, he’s responsive to student needs, and a good, aware advocate who is interested in trying to find solutions to whatever problems exist.”
Hebron has already accomplished a lot in his young life, but he continues to have large goals for the future. He has not ruled out the possibility of continuing his education further, and has designs of opening a practice in either San Diego or Israel.
“I’ve thought about opening up a gym with a practice inside, and maybe some martial arts mixed in with that,” Hebron explained with a smile. “I can also move to Israel and start a practice in Tel Aviv. I haven’t really decided yet, and I’m going to see how (my education) goes over the next two years.”