Post: Martin Hochster Memorial 755

Military Service: Marine Corps

Member Since: 2019

1.Why did you join the military?

I wanted to see the world. My list of deployments include, two UDP’s (Unit Deployment Phase) to Okinawa including an exercise with Thailand’s marines and one with Australian service members. These were in 1997 and 1999. After 9/11 I was a part of Task Force 76 in Afghanistan, stationed at Bagram, Salero, Organi, and Chester in 2004 and 2005. I returned from Afghanistan in 2005 and Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana that August. At the time I was stationed at NAS/JRB Belle Chasse, which is south of New Orleans and right next to a levee of the Mississippi River. The next nine months were a traumatic time for everyone. In 2007 I did another combat deployment, but this time it was in Iraq.

2. How did you get introduced to JWV?

I learned about JWV from my friend Michael Ross at Torah study

3. What was your most memorable Jewish experience while serving?

Having a Rabbi as our squadron’s Chaplain during my 2004 tour in Afghanistan. I was surprised to see that we had a Rabbi. This made me feel a lot better, as I am usually the only Jewish Marine in my unit.

4. What is an American tradition that makes you the most proud?

Standing up and singing our National Anthem.

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

The movie 1984. I believe it is a good example of foreshadowing to the current political situation that we are in today.

6. With the rise in popularity of superhero movies, who is your favorite superhero and why?

Agent Coulson of S. H. I. E. L. D., because he is a regular man who helps fight super bad guys and keep the balance of power in check. He’s a good example for our youth.

7. What is your favorite traditional Jewish food?

Falafel with a nice tahini sauce, chopped peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickled turnips.

Post: 1LT Raymond Zussman Post 135

Current Residence: Bloomfield Hills, MI

Military Service: US Army 1969-2004; Operation Desert Storm

Member Since Year: 2011

1. What’s your military story?

It’s a 35-year story beginning with my enlistment in the Army Reserves when I contracted as an Advanced Course ROTC Cadet in college in 1969. I was commissioned in Armor in 1971, and had a string of assignments in and around tanks for the next 33 years. My career was about equally divided between assignments considered “operational” (with and around troops in tank units from platoon through division or other training roles), and the business or acquisition side of the Army as a program manager for some of the Army and Marine Corps’ most significant modernization programs. I served in Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, Maryland, the Pentagon, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Michigan. 

During Operation Desert Shield I was Executive Officer of 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized)) and deployed from Ft. Riley, Kansas to Saudi Arabia over New Years in 1991. When the air campaign started on 17 January 1991, and Operation Desert Storm commenced, all of our equipment was still en route from Kansas and was in ships southeast of the Straits of Hormuz. Immediately after its arrival we deployed into the desert along the Saudi-Iraq border to begin rehearsals for our upcoming operations should Saddam not yield to the demands of the United Nations. Early in the morning of 24 February 1991 we conducted a deliberate combat breach into the Iraqi defenses as the VII (US) Corps main effort brigade. We continued the attack for the next four days and ultimately were called upon to secure the airfield of Safwan, Iraq at which GEN Schwarzkopf dictated terms to the Iraqi army for its surrender. 

2. Do you have a favorite Jewish military holiday story?

At Pesach in 1991 (5752), after direct combat operations in Iraq had ceased, I was able to surprise my wife and our extended family by calling into the Seder at her parents’ home in New Jersey. This was before the proliferation of mobile phones and was done from a telephone center courtesy of one of the larger US-based phone companies. The call lasted only about 5 minutes because there was a line of Soldiers calling home (the first night coincided with Easter), and it has never been forgotten. As it happens, at that point I was only about 60 or so miles from Ur, birthplace of our patriarch Abraham. All things considered, it was quite a memorable call looking out at the stars in the early morning desert while recalling the story of Passover. 

3. What made you decide to join JWV?

I retired from the US Army in 2004 and transitioned into a business career. Along the way, my family grew older and we transitioned into the less hectic lifestyle of a civilian family. In 2011 I was asked to speak at the Veterans Day Shabbat at my synagogue in Michigan. A member of JWV who was helping organize the event, which included not only a color guard but also a procession of Veterans into the sanctuary, approached and asked if I was a JWV member (at the moment I was not). I decided to sign up on the spot. It just made sense to me to select one VSO with which to associate, and JWV was the right choice. It was also a choice I wish I’d made earlier in my life. I’ve made many friends along the way, and I’m still associated with the man that asked me to join—Marty Levine—not only thru JWV, but also in the Veteran-focused not-for-profit I lead today. 

4. What causes would you like JWV to work on?

I think JWV really needs to focus on youth and vitality if we’re to keep this organization operating as a going concern. We need to recruit and retain members from the post-Vietnam era (Cold War, ODS/OEF/OIF/OND) remembering that our numbers from those eras are likely to be found in the professional ranks (e.g, doctors, lawyers, mental health fields) more so than traditional rank-and-file. We need to educate both clergy and lay leaders about our organization because they are in touch with their membership base and can advocate for us. Those leaders, too, are getting younger and probably neither know nor appreciate on a personal level the service of Jewish Veterans. We need also to be present on high school and college campuses telling our story at day schools and Hillels in our community, planting the seeds of awareness of the organization and service to the Nation early and often. Our Jewish Chaplains must advocate as well to the Jews on active duty so they join JWV and we keep their membership after leaving the military. More work sharing best practices thru a web-based platform could assist in spreading good ideas, as well as lessons learned in the “not so good” department.  We’re going to be around for a long time—here for good so to speak—and there is a role for everyone. 

5. Who would you say is your most influential mentor in JWV?

I have several mentors in JWV. One would have to be our Department of Michigan Senior Vice Commander, Art Fishman (Post 510). Art is a World War II sailor who spent his time on destroyers. He’s extremely—and justifiably—proud of his service on ‘Tin Cans.’  Don’t ever let his era of service or age fool you—he is a dynamo of activity and the most knowledgeable man I know in JWV. He really sets the pace and standard for what right looks like in Michigan. The other is Ed Hirsch (Post 474). Interesting story—a Special Forces Dentist with some remarkable service in Southeast Asia, all of Southeast Asia it seems. He’ll tell you much of it, but not all of it. Ed was recently elected as Commander of the Department of Michigan. He and Art will both be at Tampa in August. Look them up. 

6. What advice would you have for new members in JWV?

My advice to new members is get actively involved. Volunteer to lead in your Post and your community. Listen to the older members because their stories are important to our history, and remember they want to hear from you as well since your experience in 2018 is just as important as theirs of 1948 or 1968 or 1998. There is more that unites the various age groups than separates them. While all of our experiences might be different, none are less meaningful for the country. 

7. Last question, Hamentaschen or Latkes?

Hamentaschen…less cholesterol, more options.  Plus, Purim is just a more adult party anyway.

Post: Col. Irving Heymont Post 299

Current Residence: Hedgesville, WV

Military Service: West Point class of ’03 (Mickey Marcus award recipient from JWV), United States Army, Infantry Platoon Leader and Civil Affairs Officer in Iraq (OIF 05-07) with 2-8 Infantry, 4th ID

Member Since Year: 2003

1. What drove you to join the military?

The examples of service from my family and a desire to be part of something bigger than myself. Both my grandfathers served in the Army. My father’s dad, Sam Scheinberg, was a combat engineer in WW2 and helped to liberate France and concentration camps in France and Germany. Both of my parents served in a different way as public educators. I joined the Army through West Point and my younger brother, Joshua, joined the Air Force shortly after 9/11.

2. How did you get introduced to JWV?

I knew of JWV through my grandfather, but really got to know the organization and members as a cadet at West Point. JWV truly helped me get through West Point by building a community at the Jewish Chapel on Post. Members, many who served in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam would sponsor our weekly Shabbat dinners, Sunday bagels, and would always provide mentorship as a group of folks who have been through what we were facing. My wife, Natasha, and I were later married at the West Point Jewish Chapel.

3. What was your most memorable Jewish experience while serving?

Flying from Haswah, Iraq, to Baghdad to meet up with the only Jewish chaplain in Iraq and helping to put on a Passover Seder for Jewish soldiers across theatre. The best part was seeing Jewish West Point graduates who I knew as cadets coming together from bases and outposts all over Iraq.

4. Is there a piece of legislation coming before Congress that you find that will best serve our veterans?

One of the highlights of my career in service is working for Senator Manchin on Veterans legislation. Senator Manchin has been on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee since he was first elected and is very active on veterans issues as West Virginia has one of the highest rates of military service in the country. Right now, a big focus of ours is on economic opportunities for veterans and suicide prevention.

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

There Will be Blood. I don’t think it relates to my military service, it’s just an awesome movie.

6. Who is your favorite superhero and why?

It’s always been Superman for me. When I was in high school, I won 7 gold medals in the Maccabee Games as a sprinter on the track & field team. I wore a Superman shirt after every event and folks started calling me “The Fastest Jew in America”

7. What is your favorite traditional Jewish food?

Everything bagel, veggie cream cheese, and lox with a side of creamed herring.

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?

Post: JWV Post 243 FL

Military Service: 1993-2017

Current Residence: Miami, Florida

Member Since Year: 2002

  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

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.