May 28, 2007
Let us recall today the brave men and women that fought and died for their country.
Let us recall today the brave men and women that fought and died for their country.
Let us recognize their sacrifice, even as we condemn the wicked policymakers that sent and continue to send such patriotic Americans to early graves, because of the misguided and venal motives of those who would never have the courage to risk their lives to protect their country.
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GI Joe May 30, 2007 8:56 am
Somehow–I think dogtags are stamped personally as needed–they wouldn’t be pre-stamped in categories in their bulk packaging
Arnold May 29, 2007 11:23 pm
When you get right down to it, the military’s dog tag classification made me reclaim my Judaism.
In the fall of 1990 things were heating up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. I’d been an Army Captain and a helicopter maintenance test pilot for a decade and received notice that I’d be transferred to the First Cavalry Division which was on alert for the Gulf War.
Consequently, I also caught wind of the Department of Defense “dog tag dilemma” regarding Jewish personnel.
Saudi law forbids Jews to enter the country. But our Department of Defense told the King Fahd: “We have Jews in our military. They trained with their units and they’re going. Blink and look the other way.” With Kuwait occupied and the Iraqis at his border, King Fahd did the practical thing and blinked. We shipped out, but there was still the issue of the dog tag classification.
Normally, the dog tags of Jewish servicemen are imprinted with the word “Jewish.” But the Department of Defense, fearing that maintaining this customary marking for Jewish soldiers would put them at further risk should they be captured on Iraqi soil, substituted the classification “Protestant-B” on the tags, “B” being a secret code for Jew.
I didn’t like the idea of reclassifying Jews as Protestant anything and decided to leave my dog tag alone. I figured if I were captured, it was in G-d’s hands. Changing my tags was tantamount to denying my religion, and I couldn’t swallow that.
In September 1990 I went off to defend a country I was prohibited from entering. The “Jewish” classification on my dog tag remained, clear and unmistakable as the American star painted on the hood of every Army truck.
A few days after my arrival, the Baptist battalion chaplain approached me. “I just got a message through channels,” he said. “There’s going to be a Jewish gathering. Simkatoro or some thing like that. You want to go?”
“Simkatoro” turned out to be Simchat Torah, a holiday that hadn’t registered on my religious radar in eons. But it registered then and there.
Services were held in absolute secrecy in a windowless room in a cinderblock building in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Rabbi Romer, the cha plain who helped keep us together during the war, led a swift and simple service.
We couldn’t risk singing or dancing, but the rabbi had managed to smuggle in a bottle of Manischewitz. Normally I can’t stand the stuff, but that night the wine tasted of Shabbat and family and Seders long gone. My soul was warmed by the alcohol and the memories swirling around me and my fellow soldiers.
Soon after that service, things began coming to a head; the next time I could do anything remotely Jewish was Chanukah. Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe it was G-d’s hand that placed a Jewish Colonel in charge of our Division’s intelligence unit. Colonel Schneider’s presence enabled him to get messages of Jewish gatherings to us immediately. When notice of the Chanukah party was decoded, we knew about it right away.
The first thing we saw as we entered the tent were care packages from the States with cookies, latkes, sour cream and applesauce, and cans and cans of gefilte fish. The wind was blowing dry across the tent but inside was this incredible feeling of celebration. As Rabbi Romer talked about Chanukah and the rag tag bunch of Maccabee soldiers fighting off Jewry’s oppressors thousands of years ago, it wasn’t hard to make the connection to what lay ahead of us. There in the middle of the desert, we felt like we were Maccabees ourselves. If we had to go down, we were going to go down fighting.
We blessed the candles acknowledging the King of the Universe Who commanded us to kindle the Chanukah lights. We said the second prayer praising G-d for the miracles He performed “in those days and now.” And being the first night of Chanukah, we also sang the third “Shehechiyanu” blessing, thanking G-d for keeping us alive and enabling us to reach this season.
War was imminent. All week we received projections of the mass destruction chemical weapons likely to be unleashed. Intelligence estimates put the first round of casualties at 12,500 soldiers. I heard those numbers and thought, “That’s my entire division.”
I sat back in my chair. Here we were going into war, singing songs of praise to G-d Who saved my ancestors in battle. The feeling of unity was as pervasive as our apprehension, as real as the sand that found its way into everything from our socks to our toothbrushes. I felt more Jewish on that lonely Saudi plain, than I ever felt with talit, prayer book and yarmulke in shul.
That Chanukah in the desert solidified my urge to reconnect with Judaism. I felt religion welling up inside of me. Any soldier will tell you there are no atheists in a foxhole and I know a good deal of my feelings were tied to the looming war and my desire to get with G-d before the unknown descended in the cloud of battle.
It sounds corny, but as we downed the latkes and cookies and wiped the last of the applesauce from our plates, everyone grew quiet, keenly aware of our link with history, thinking of what lay ahead and what had been done by soldiers like us so long ago.
The trooper beside me stared ahead at nothing, absent-mindedly fingering his dog tag. “How’d you classify?” I asked, nodding to the tag. Silently he withdrew the metal rectangle and its beaded chain from beneath his shirt and held it out for me to read. Like mine, his read “Jewish.”
Somewhere in a military supply depot I’m sure there are boxes and boxes of dog tags, still in their wrappers, all marked Protestant “B.”
[Ms. Darvick is a freelance writer. This story is excerpted from her book: A Jewish Life: Fifty-Two Stories of Joy, Meaning, and Connection. http://www.jewishstories.com. Mr. Neulander is now a Judaica silversmith in Newport News, VA.]
This article can be found at http://www.jewish-holiday.com/dogtag.html
G I Joe May 29, 2007 10:00 am
The faces come to him in his sleep,
they are dirty faces wearing wearied conviction,
sweating, grizzled faces with 40-day beards and jungle-rot scars,
and always that wide-eyed stare, looking at nothing.
“Are we dead?”
“Are we really dead?”
“We didn’t want to die.”
“Tell them we didn’t want to die,” The faces mutter in unison. “Tell them how we died.”
“Tell them how we died bravely doing brave things and how we died senselessly for stupid reasons.”
There are faces with some flesh eaten away and skulls with just a little flesh remaining,
there are familiar faces of men he knew and anonymous faces, both friend and foe alike.
“Tell them we didn’t want to die, that we had people we loved, and people who loved us,
“Tell them for us, because you still can.”
The faces spoke to the man in his sleep,
they spoke to him in his daydreams,
“Tell them war is the devil’s lie, Satan laughs as people die.”
madfuq May 28, 2007 1:00 pm
On this Memorial Day when we remember and honor those who have served our country, fought and died in foreign lands to preserve our freedom, I can only hope that none have died in vain and that our republic will stand from all our enemy’s without and within.
Was American ever a perfect land no! But there have always been individuals among us who held to high standards, those who served the people and held us citizens in high regard. Unfortunately the current adminstration seems to hold only the monied powerful in esteem, honoring the almighty dollar more than the working man that makes this country run, the very glue of this fabric of democracy and decency. The individual that helps his neighbor, does his job and struggles to understand how things can look so good and be so rotten underneath. When we find those who actually will stand up to the plate for these ideals they are to be honored and our youth that serve in rich mans wars are just such individuals, men and women better than the rest of us!