Gardner was born and raised in a Jewish family in Montana. When he reached the age of 13, his parents sent him to study Judaism and Hebrew once a week. After graduating from high school, he traveled to Los Angeles to study political science in university.
When he received his academic degree and began looking for a job, Gardner turned to veteran politician Max Baucus, who has been representing the state of Montana at the American Senate since 1978.
The Democratic senator was impressed with the young Jewish man and asked him to join his team of assistants. "I worked for Senator Baucus for more than three years. He is considered one of the most senior politicians in Washington and working with at his side was fascinating. I met brilliant people," says Gardner.
Baucus, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, was one of the designers of "Obamacare," US President Barack Obama's healthcare reform. Gardner was at his side during the heated Senate debates over the program.
But two years ago, at the height of his career at the US Congress' upper house, the parliamentary assistant decided to leave it all behind and embark on a new and completely different road, thousands of miles from Washington.
"I knew that I wanted to immigrate to Israel one day and join the IDF," Gardner recalls. "But two years ago I realized that I was already 25 years old, and if I wanted to fulfill my dream and serve as a fighter – I better hurry up. And yet the decision to leave everything was no easy, because I loved my job in Washington and wanted to continue moving forward."
'An example of true Zionism'In 2012 he finally made the decision of his life: Gardner bid farewell to Capitol Hill and to his family, and immigrated to Israel on his own. He was sent to study Hebrew at Kibbutz Yagur, and donned his IDF uniform 10 months ago.
"I am now in a Nahal reconnaissance troop program. The military service is really hard," he says.
The 27-year-old Gardner is training alongside 18-year-old troops. "I am the oldest soldier in the unit, the same age as the company commander. But despite my age they're not making it easier for me."
During vacations from the army, the former parliamentary assistant returns to his home in Kibbutz Givat Haim Ichud. "My parents stayed in the US. They support me, but find the distance between us very difficult," he says.
Tzvika Levy, who runs the lone soldiers program for the Kibbutz Movement, compliments Gardner: "He left a promising career in Washington to contribute to the State of Israel. Joshua is an example of true Zionism."