In shul on Shabbat I told someone about this site. And her response was to tell me the story of how her father had never been to synagogue until he was in the military. He had been raised in an “oppressive Orthodox home” and so had rebelled by having no religion in his own home.
This comment sparked the idea of having a section on this site where visitors can add their own vignettes in the comments section of this page.
And to begin the sharing of vignettes, I’m going to tell this story of three generations in the U.S. military:
My husband has a WWI poster that England used to encourage Canadian Jews to serve.
Here’s the poster’s wording:
THE JEWS THE WORLD OVER LOVE LIBERTY
HAVE FOUGHT FOR IT & WILL FIGHT FOR IT
BRITAIN EXPECTS EVERY SON OF ISRAEL TO DO HIS DUTY
ENLIST WITH THE INFANTRY REINFORCEMENTS FOR OVERSEAS
Under the Command of Capt. Freedman
786 St. Lawrence Boulevard
The poster art includes cameos of:
Rt. Hon. Herbert Samuel
Rt. Hon. Edwin S. Montagu
And a cartoon figure is saying: You have cut my bonds and set me free — now let me help you set others free.
My husband’s paternal grandfather Jacob Miller, who had only recently come to America from somewhere in Eastern Europe (and whose last name was probably Menduke or Meduke), went from Philadelphia to Canada to join the British army in WWI before the U.S. entered the war. He was gassed in the war and never really recovered.
His older son Martin (my father-in-law — see photo above) served during World War II. Because Yiddish was his first language in his childhood in Philadelphia, he discovered that he could speak to the German prisoners of war that he came across as the Germans started to lose the war. Although no one ever spoke of post-traumatic stress syndrome in those days, he didn’t work for the first months after he came back from Europe. But my husband’s birth — nine months and three days after his father returned — forced my father-in-law to face life again.
My husband Mitch (see photo above) was in ROTC at Michigan State University during the Vietnam War. He served two years, and the story of his first nine weeks on active duty forms the backdrop of my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT.
I hope you’ll share your own tales of Jewish veterans in the comments below.