Memorial Day Musings


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She was wearing a ribbon

“Family member of a soldier.”

“Thank you for his service, “said I

“and thank you for supporting your family

and making the sacrifices you do.”

Her face reflects many feelings

All at once

As she expresses appreciation for this recognition.

Connection made.

I mention my dad,

Who served in WW II

From 1938-1942

He did two “tours,”

Clearing the beaches in the South Pacific

Beaches, tours – sounds like vacation

More like a living nightmare

Still haunts him, his dementing mind

holding on to these ”unforgettable” memories

Why is trauma what we remember most?

Her husband has done seven tours in Iraq

“PTSD,” I state.

“Yes,” she replies with resignation and without complaint.

“It is really tough for him…and us”

I can’t even imagine being in the war

Not the same as being at war.

And still young men and women join the armed forces.

What I have learned as a “lay chaplain”

For the Jewish program at the

Navy’s Great Lakes Recruit Training Command

Has given me insight into recruits and their dreams.

They seek jobs, not war.

Many have been raised by family members

Other than their parents.

A percentage sign up

Because serving is intergenerational

Others, to escape a difficult past

College degrees, GEDs and high school diplomas,

First and seventh generation Americans,

And immigrants,

Every race and religion,

Geographically and culturally diverse,

Married and so young,

Raising children or expecting,

Older recruits seeking a second chance

The privileged and less fortunate,


Learning to support one another

Without prejudice.

All loving this country.

All seeking a better life.

Respect abounds

They search for meaning more openly

Than their non-military peers.

My dad began believing in God

In the midst of war.

My friend, a Rear Admiral,

Told me one needs faith

To make it through.

The Navy chaplaincy program supports this by

Offering a wide and diverse range of

worship services and study.

On Friday nights

Shabbat service attendance ranges from 8-35.

Jews, though never the majority,

From every background and none,

Children of the intermarried and of Jewish clergy,

Some in the process of conversion,

Some because a sibling has married a Jew,

Some because a grandparent was Jewish,

Messianic Jews, knowledgeable and Jewishly observing,

Atheists and seekers,

The curious and

Those supporting a Jewish shipmate.

Christians and Hindus and …

All defy our stereotypes

They all love Shabbat.

Open to the journey of prayer,

We chant, meditate and pray,

Seek to understand the messages of Torah,

Ask hard questions,

Discover commonality and difference,

Find a bit of peacefulness,

If only for a short while.

Walking out of the chapel,

I overheard some recruits talking about

The gas chamber exercise –

A somber reminder of

The cost of war

For all of humanity.

Today we remember those

Who gave their lives

For the sake of this great nation,

Especially as we struggle through

What has become a disturbing search

For a new leader.

Inequality, intolerance and prejudice

Have been outed.

The news is not journalism.

Everyone is shouting over one another;

Respectful discourse seems off the table.

We have much to learn –

From the unknown soldiers

To the highest ranking officers

Who yearned and still yearn for peace

Ours is an angry, hurting and increasingly dangerous world.

Discipline, respect and process

Lay an important foundation for leadership.

But it comes at great sacrifice for all.

We have much to do

For the survivors who suffer from PTSD

And their families.

We pray for their complete and speedy recovery –

A healing of soul and body.

More needs to be done

To help them  and their families

find hope and meaning once again –

These courageous lovers of our great country.

For those who gave their lives in service-

May they be remembered as a blessing.

And may we honor their memory

Through our own renewed commitment

To the pursuit of

“Liberty and justice for all.”


Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi

Memorial Day, 2016


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