By Dr. Barry J Schneider, National Commander
Coordinating Committee Chairman Norman Rosenshein and myself, National Commander Dr. Barry Schneider, were privileged to attend the NATO briefings in Brussels, Belgium. At NATO, we met with our NATO Defense Attaché Jordan Becker, who discussed current NATO strategies and ongoing importance of sharing the financial and physical support among the member nations. Our next discussion covered the situation in Afghanistan by analysis Jim Golby and Turkey by analyst Michael Polyak. We found the briefings to be well planned and both analysts to be very forthcoming. Our final briefing at NATO was conducted by Justin Suni, the Public Affairs Officer. The discussion centered around the ongoing issue of the necessity of being politically correct “keeping everyone happy” while still getting the message out.
The following day, we were privileged to meet with the U.S. Ambassador, Ambassador Ronald J. Gidwitz, to Belgium at his beautiful residence, he was a delightful host. Coffee and cakes were served followed by a tour of the Embassy. Courtesy calls were made to the following Embassy staff members: Defense Attaché Col. Stephenson, Deputy Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs Matt Habinowski and Cultural Affairs Specialist Brian Dick, who discussed the U.S. participation in Belgium’s WWI and WWII commemoration.
From Brussels, we moved on to London for one of the most memorable events that I have had the privilege to participate in. The Association of Ex-Jewish Service Men and Women (AJEX) conducted their 84th annual parade and wreath laying ceremony at Whitehall in memory and honor of the 100th anniversary of the World War 1 Armistice.
The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) was founded in 1929 to serve the needs of Jewish veterans of the First World War (1914-18). AJEX membership includes Ex-National Servicemen who served in Korea, Kenya, Malaysia, Cyprus, Iraq, The Falklands and Afghanistan. Lord Sterling is the current President of the Association.
Veterans from Israel, France, Australia and the United States participated in the parade and wreath laying ceremony. It was my honor to be one of the wreath layers as the American representative. Over 2000 people attended the ceremony and parade. Watching the WWII vets march with the assistance of canes and wheelchairs was a heartwarming event. No wonder they are known as the greatest generation! The Chief Rabbi of England conducted a meaningful memorial service. It was an awe-inspiring event, and I, personally, was very glad it did not rain.
Following the parade, we were treated to high tea and comradery with the members of AJEX and other dignitaries. A keynote address was given, thanking AJEX for their outstanding work and to present good wishes to outgoing President Jacques Weisser for his 24 years of service to AJEX. On Monday, a gala dinner was held for AJEX members and foreign visitors. The dinner itself was spectacular and all kosher, and yes, we all ate too much and enjoyed every bite.
On Monday morning, we were welcomed to a short visit to the U.S. Embassy in London. We met with First Secretary Anna Stinchcomb, from the Political Department and First Secretary Jason Uliner from the Cultural and Economic Department. Both briefed us on current events affecting the U.S. and UK.
The trip was enlightening. I encourage JWV to continue the relationships with NATO and AJEX. It is important for us to continue to be knowledgeable of current events and topics that affect us as Americans, as Jews and as JWV members. As the National Commander, I was honored to be your representative.
Up next, I will be heading to Congress in March to testify on your behalf. Please accept my personal invitation to attend the National Executive Council Meeting in February so we can discuss the issues that you would like for me to advocate in my testimony. I look forward to seeing you then.