Member: Sheila Berg

Post: Lehigh High Valley Post 239

Current Residence: Fogelsville, PA

Military Service: February 1980-May 2014

Member Since Year: 2009

1.When and why did you serve in the military?

I enlisted in the Air Force Reserves because I wanted to serve my country. I turned down a Commission to enlist as a Jet Engine Mechanic because I wanted to challenge myself and learn a new trade.

2. How did you get introduced to JWV?

There was several JWV members at my shul who encouraged me to join. I was definitely the most influenced by a Holocaust survivor who told me that JWV defeats the American concept that Jews do not serve in the military or fight.

3. JWV has many programs to help support both those in and out of uniform. Which program do you feel most connected to or would want to change and why?

JWV has many programs that are not known to the public such as scouting and the grants programs. The public and Jewish service members are not readily aware of these opportunities. I feel that our job as members is that we need to create an awareness and interest in everything that we do to support those in and out of uniform as well as their families. I am currently working to increase an awareness of women veterans. I do feel that JWV should work more closely with local Jewish organizations partnering or sponsoring programs and also feel that JWV National needs to create awareness with national Jewish organizations. I do believe that they have started to create an online persona to attract present service members and those recently discharged, but it still needs to be stronger and more robust.

4. As a woman who has served in the military and is also the Chairman for the Women in the Military Committee, what do you see as the biggest problems facing women who serve in the armed forces today?

The continued awareness and acceptance of Women Veterans. The areas of concern are gender specific medical conditions including gender specific prosthesis, ancillary or support issues such as babysitting service at VA facilities, programs for homelessness which often include the Veterans and her family. Gender specific therapy for PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and aging issues. As veterans age programs for maintaining quality of life at a home or services in the home. Also the mortality rate for women is greater hence issues of living alone may become prominent.

5. Can you tell us a bit about your Jewish background and what was the catalyst moment that called you to serve?

I previously attended a Conservative shul. Presently attend a modern Orthodox shul. There have been challenges to being observant and I hope this will be better in the future with more Jewish chaplains serving in the military. An example that I can give is a common problem, trying to find services on Temporary Duty (TDY). When I was activated for both the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom I was re-issued dog tags without my religion and a Christian Bible. No Chumash was available.

6. What is your favorite movie and does it relate with your experience in the military?

I like most war movies from WWII to present. I enjoyed the movie Interceptor in which part of the movies was on a mockup of a C-5 airplane. It was a thriller, but the interior of the plane was not correct. I was laughing in the theater. The patrons kept looking at me as if I was crazy. I enjoyed Twelve Strong and Zero Dark Thirty.

7. What is you most favorite Jewish food?

Kasha and bowties, noodle kugel.

Post/Command: Post 158 Old Dominion of Tidewater (effectively Southeast Virginia)

Current Residence: Norfolk, VA

Military Service dates: 1999-2019 (from 1995-1999 I was enlisted in the reserves while attending college)

Member since year:  Oh, around about 2006’ish tried to work with the post in Jacksonville Florida, but nothing ever came of it.

  1. When and why did you serve in the military?

– Enlisted in the reserves in 1995 and commissioned in 1999.  It is our duty as Americans to serve our country in one form or another.  For me, it seemed like a good fit to do this through naval service vice some other civil service.  But, if you ask my good Jewish mother (sorry to keep referencing her but she is prolific in my life) I did it just to upset her.  I’ve never disputed that claim.

  1. How did you get introduced to JWV?

– I do not remember, just heard about it one day while stationed in San Diego, I was on sea duty with 1, 2, 3, 5 small children so did not follow up with it till much later.

  1. What is a program that JWV offers, in which you would like to be more involved with, and why?

– The main mission, Veterans Affairs.

  1. What is an American tradition that makes you the proudest?

– Being an American, there is a lot to be proud of.

  1. What is the best military Jewish holiday story you have?

– There I was in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba it was the 5th night of Hanukkah 2008 and my ship had bulled in for a brief refueling and resupplying.  There was a cool breeze blowing off of the Caribbean through the old battle field that was the Cuzco Well, and shaking the windows of the O’Kelly’s Irish Pub where my local detachment of American Jews had lit the menorah for the fifth night.  Through the flicker of these holy lights USMC Sargent C. Fox commenced to debrief the story of Hanukkah as only a Jewish Marine from West Virginia could…  I have tried to tell his story over again cleaning out the language and “civilian-izing” it, but it does not have the same comical punch to it!  This kid got so into telling the story about Judah Maccabi set up irregular gorilla operations against the Syrians through physical gestures (theatrics) of mock up squad  tactics (he got fellow Sailors and Marines to participate) and close order combat.  He really got into it.  We laughed so hard, I don’t think I had ever heard or seen anything so funny in my entire life!  Give me some time and I will try to recreate it….  It was funny.

  1. What is your favorite movie about the military and does it relate with your experience in the military?

– First off, any movie with John Wayne is top!  “In Harm’s Way,” “They Were Expendable,” “Operation Pacific,” et cetera!  But if you want a movie my wife says represents me it would be “The Last Detail.”  She says they managed to break my personality down into the three main characters.  Truth is my career has been more of a “Down Periscope” than anything else.

  1. Do you prefer Latkes or donuts on Hanukkah?

– Bourbon, was that a choice?

  1. When and why did you serve in the military?

Back in 1993 I was twenty years old, working full-time as a cashier in a major supermarket while also going to school full-time. When I lost my job, I lost my means to pay for my education. So, I set out to find my next work opportunity. I happened upon a recruiting office for the New Jersey Army National Guard, already somewhat aware of the monetary benefits. Three days later I was swearing in. I left for Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC two months after that, followed by Advanced Individual Training in Fort Gordon, GA. The lifestyle fit me so well that when I became eligible, I transferred into the Regular Army, never looking back.

  1. How did you get introduced to JWV?

When I was stationed at Ft Monmouth, NJ, someone made me aware. I don’t remember the conversation or circumstances.

  1. What is a program that JWV offers, in which you would like to be more involved with, and why?

I am definitely focusing my time on increasing membership. I’m using my platform to improve relations with the local JROTC programs, supporting the US Navy Sea Cadet Corps (USNSCC) Training Division NAS Richmond, and advertising with social media and actual shaking hands with folks.

  1. What is an American tradition that makes you the proudest?

Seeing our National Colors flying in the local communities, where it is not a requirement but a choice.

  1. What is the best military Jewish holiday story you got?

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, 2007. As the Jewish Lay Leader, my Company Commander was able to secure everything we needed for Passover services, including some Manischewitz. He led the seder, we all embraced the significance of the moment, and finished off the wine.

  1. What is your favorite movie about the military? Did it relate with your experience in the military?

I don’t have a “favorite” military movie, I don’t enjoy them as I once did. But the last military movie I watched was American Sniper, and it was pretty spot on. Definitely relatable to my time in Iraq.

  1. What song gets you pumped up for a work out?

My workout playlist contains Chevelle, System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, a few others. Depending on what exercise I’m about to perform determines how much motivation I really need.

Volume 72. Number 3. Fall 2018

Member: Samuel Yudin

Post: Post 786

Current Residence: Long Beach, CA

Military Service: Iraq and Afghanistan

Member Since Year: 2018

  1. When and why did you serve in the military?

My decision to join the military is a long, complicated story centered on many chance encounters and a confluence of events and ideas.  While in college, I was curious about learning anything I could and reexamining all that I had come to know especially when it came to my Judaism.  I was reading, among other things, anything by Phillip Roth and Leon Uris.  The stark contrast of Jewish masculinity depicted did not sit well with me and I wanted to be a nice but tough Jew.  While studying in Germany I worked as a bartender on a US Army base and learned about the military language school which made me think that I could pursue one of my intellectual passions while serving so I could become that nice tough Jew.

  1. What was a special moment for you serving in the military?

In my almost 19 years serving so far there have been many special moments.  Each graduation of a special military school, competition, or each promotion are always memorable.  Every training exercise, mission, or deployment suffering in the inclement weather in some godawful place with your buddies is a special moment we all share which bonds us together like no civilian will ever know.  Out of all those special moments the most memorable was being promoted in a ceremony in front of friends and family by my friend and hero, Holocaust survivor, and Medal of Honor recipient Corporal Tibor Rubin.

  1. How did you get introduced to JWV?

When I first got back home from Active Duty I was curious to find other Jews like me who could understand where I was coming from.  I was told about JWV but was told it was just a bunch of old guys sitting around who did not want youngsters around.  I joined the Reserves and then the Guard but kept moving around so did not get involved.  Then a few years ago Corporal Tibor Rubin’s daughter Rosie told me I needed to meet Greg Lee the CA JWV Commander.  Greg got me energized to be part of JWV which has in turn got a group of several of us currently still serving to join JWV.

  1. What national issues are you interested in seeing JWV to fight for?

I am uneasy about organizations, especially Jewish ones, creeping outside their mission statements because that alienates some people they are supposed to represent.  I am interested in the JWV advocating for Jewish veterans, veterans in general, and getting the positive message of Jewish service out there.

  1. What displays of patriotism makes you the proudest?

My definition of patriotism differs from most.  I believe the best display of patriotism is living your life with the values and ideals that this country was founded on.  It is the same way I look at Judaism.  If I wave the flag and chant USA but am a miserable human being not living a life of American values than I am not patriotic.  I am proud of my Judaism and my country but I could have just as easily been born to different parents in a different country.  What I can choose is how I live my life.  Some of the most patriotic Americans I know are my Vietnamese and Cambodian friends.  They love this country because it saved their lives and they embody American values in how they live with love of liberty, freedom, and responsibility.

  1. What is the best military Jewish holiday story you got?

Chanukah in Korea is a reoccurring theme. I spent the one in 2003 on a hill top surrounded by North Korea on three sides.  It happened to be Christmas so they flew the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders up in a Blackhawk so got a nice picture with my menorah, my officers and all of them.  Arranging a Passover Seder in Kosovo two years ago was another great success.

  1. What is your favorite Adam Sandler movie?

I would have to go early Adam Sandler, so anything in the 90s; Airheads, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, or Waterboy.