By Larry Jasper, Post Commander of 373

Post 373 was founded 31 May 1949, in Tampa, Florida, and is named for Albert S. Aronowitz, son of Emanuel and Rose Aronowitz.  Albert was a PFC with the 135th Infantry, 34th Division, in WWII.  Albert died on June 1, 1944, of wounds sustained at Anzio, Italy. He was 21.

We are a small post with a big mission: to support ill and paralyzed veterans.  We work closely with the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and the Haley’s Cove Rehab Center and Nursing Home in Tampa. We take our ill and disabled vets to many outings, such as baseball and hockey games, museums, state fairs, MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry), auto shows, aquariums, lunch at local restaurants, and many other events. We also provide them with everyday needs, as well as periodic entertainment.

We also have a large presence in the community.  We provide an Honor Guard for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm, both at the Amalie Arena in Tampa; the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg; and the local JCC Israel Independence Day celebrations.  We participate in the Massing of the Colors in St. Petersburg as well as activities at MacDill AFB.

For Memorial Day and Veterans Day, we place flags on veterans’ graves in various local cemeteries.  We hold various fundraisers on those occasions to help support the post’s activities for the veterans.

We were recently chosen to provide the Honor Guard for one of the Lightning play-off games (see photo taken prior to moving onto the ice – from left to right, Peter Stark, Larry Jasper, Sonya Bryson (who sings the National Anthem), MacDill Wing Commander Air Force Col. April Vogel (honored guest), Jim Marenus, and Georgi Jasper).

Our monthly meetings are held on the 3rd Sunday of the month in the SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) unit of the James A. Haley VA Hospital, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Tampa, Florida 33612. Bagels, lox, cream cheese and other items are available at 9:30AM and the meeting starts at 10:00AM.

We are honored to have 2 members who are WWII veterans and we have members who have served in all conflicts since WWII.   One of our WWII members served in the liberation of France and at the Battle of the Bulge.  He was recently honored by the French government for his service.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Anna Selman, Programs and Public Relations Coordinator

Members of the Healthcare Committee of the Military Coalition (TMC) got an opportunity to tour Express Scripts’s Factory and Innovation Center at its headquarters in St. Louis, MO.  For those of you unaware with Express Scripts, they fill mail-order prescriptions for our active duty, veterans and their families.  They fill about 1.2 billion prescriptions a year for about 80 million patients.

The chief impetus for this invitation was recent changes to TRICARE, especially for our retirees.  For those of you who were unaware, Congress passed new legislation regarding TRICARE that took effect on January 1, 2018.  TRICARE Standard was renamed TRICARE Select, and with the new name, comes new changes.  The first major change is that there is an annual enrollment period.  If you miss the window to enroll, you will have to wait until the next year.  Currently, there is no enrollment fees, but in 2020, enrollment fees will begin.  The second major change is the pricing.  For example, there is now a standard price for prescriptions throughout TRICARE, regardless of where you get your prescription filled.

This is the major reason why Express Scripts invited the Military Coalition to their facility in St. Louis.  They wanted to see what our members had to say about the changes, and they wanted to see if there was any suggestions on areas they should be working on.

From their own data, Express Scripts found out that most beneficiaries were unaware of the changes in TRICARE, even though they led a massive information campaign.  They also found a huge trend of beneficiaries moving their prescriptions to Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) pharmacies and to retail pharmacies.  As with every change, people tend to move to what is familiar, but from what our trip showed, familiar might not always be better.

Their St. Louis facility was very impressive.  Their assembly line was remarkably efficient, and you could see thousands of prescriptions being filled within the hour that we toured the facility.  Throughout the line, you could see thousands of checks being done from the name of the bottle, the pill size, the pill color, the weight of the bottle and so much more!  Their main prescription errors came in the shipping process, but they were overall lower than the average error rate for your retail pharmacy.

In the afternoon, we got to see the Express Scripts Innovation and Technology Center, where they were inventing some really great advances in the pharmacy world.  One of the products that I found interesting was a “narcotic deactivator.”  Basically, it was a small charcoal-activated bag that you could put your leftover narcotics in, and once sealed and crushed in the bag, would completely deactivate all the narcotics.  This could be an amazing advancement in our opioid crisis.  Currently, Express Scripts is working on patenting the product before it can be available to the public.

The second advancement that I found interesting was the Kiosk system that is currently being rolled out in the Arizona area.  Basically, it would be a glorified pill-vending machine.  Your physician could send the prescription into the system, and all you would have to do is scan the code you received from your provider and pay through an ATM-like card reader.  Then, the pills would dispense, and you could go on with your day.  If you had any questions on your prescriptions, there would be a calling system where you could speak with a live pharmacist.  Currently, Express Scripts is looking to market the product to military bases, where the machines could drastically improve wait times.

The day ended with the members of their team asking the members of TMC where they should focus their efforts in the future.  A large portion of the Committee suggested that they should be looking at the effects of prescription pills and suicide – possibly looking into doing a study with DOD and the VA.

One suggestion that I made was looking into helping the VA with its female health care issues.  For those of you that were not aware, a piece of legislation recently passed that guaranteed female veterans the right to fertility care if their ability to conceive was affected by their service.  Currently, women are lucky enough if they can find an OB/GYN at their local VA.  They are going to have a tough time finding a fertility specialist and getting their specialty medications.  This is really an area in which Express Scripts can help our female veterans.

Overall, I found the trip very informative.  If you have not heard about the changes in your TRICARE benefits, I highly suggest you visit the VA website for more information and make sure you do not miss the 2019 enrollment period.  In addition, you should look at your TRICARE plan and see what the best plan is for you and your family.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Herb Rosenbleeth, National Executive Director

Robert L. Wilkie, who is currently serving as the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, while also serving as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, has been nominated by the President to be the Secretary of the VA.  About a week ago I attended a meeting of the Veterans Day National Committee at which Acting Secretary Wilkie participated.  He told us that no one was more surprised than he was when he was selected to be the Acting VA Secretary.  He said he had absolutely no idea who might be selected to be the Secretary and that he had no reason whatsoever to think it might be him.  He said he was taking one day at a time and doing the best he could each and every day.

Acting Secretary Wilkie said he has three major goals.  First, to calm the waters at the VA.  He said when VA employees say it is difficult to work not knowing who is going to be in charge he said he tells them it is their job to take care of veterans, that it doesn’t matter who is going to be in charge.  Second, Wilkie said he wants to finalize the electronic record system of the VA and combine it with that of the Department of Defense (DoD).  And third, he said he wants to see legislation passed which would provide the same benefits for caregivers of those veterans who became disabled before 9/11 as is now authorized for those veterans disabled after 9/11.

Wilkie, the son of an Army artillery officer, was born in Frankfurt, West Germany.  His father, Robert Leon Wilkie Sr. (1038-2017) retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel.  Wilkie grew up in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, graduating from Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Reid Ross Senior High School.  Wilkie Jr. received his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University in North Carolina.  He later obtained his law degree from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans and a Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.  He also holds a Master of Science (MS) degree from the United States Army War College.

Mr. Wilkie has an outstanding professional background.  He first served on Capitol Hill as Counsel to Senator Jesse Helms and later as legislative director for Rep. David Funderburk of North Carolina.  He served on the Committee on International Relations and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Later, he served as counsel and advisor on international security affairs to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

An intelligence officer in the United States Naval Reserve, Wilkie served as special assistant to the President for national security affairs and as a senior director of the National Security Council where he was a senior policy advisor to then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as well to her successor, Stephen Hadley.  Wilkie developed strategic planning for the implementation of the Moscow Treaty, the Millennium Challenge Account, Iraqi Reconstruction and NATO Expansion.  In 2009, Wilkie was awarded the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian award of the Department of Defense.

Wilkie was nominated to be Under Secretary for Personnel and readiness by President Trump on July 25, 2017.  This nomination was confirmed by the Senate on November 16, 2017.  If confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie would be the tenth Secretary of that Department.  He will bring a strong Department of Defense background to the position at a time when the VA and DoD are seeking to work more closely together.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Ben Kane, Programs Assistant

The known history of humankind comes not just through academics and books, but through oral testimonies. As of late, they are often recorded for posterity through writing or filming, but long ago these stories and the lessons within them were passed through entire generations. Oral testimonies provide crucial glimpses into the past, into a different world, into a world that oftentimes humanity would be wise to avoid creating again. Using these sources, and through the lessons in the stories of those who came before, humankind can plot a course into the future that allows for peace to flourish.

Oral histories have been shared to communities around the world since before written history became the norm. Thanks to the technological improvements of the 20th and 21st century, humanity has expressed a renewed interest in oral histories, in no small part because they can be recorded for future generations. Even if the sharing of your specific story is not video recorded, the resurgence in popularity of oral histories ensures that finding an audience for your story won’t be too difficult, if you simply look in the right places. Jewish community centers, local high schools, local colleges and college Hillels are just a few of the places where it would be wise for a veteran to share his or her story.

Members of the individual posts of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA have been sharing their stories with their communities for years, but the hope here at National Headquarters is to mold it into an efficient, popular program that we have named “Project Maggid”. One of the main goals of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA is to disprove the myth that American Jews never served in our nations armed forces. On the contrary, the Jewish people have served since the very beginning. What better method of proving this than to share ones’ story?

Our members have shared many different stories with people, and we welcome members from all walks of life to share theirs. We have had stories shared by Jewish guards from Nuremberg to Guantanamo Bay, by American Jews in the IDF, by Jewish Dachau concentration camp liberators, and stories of those who escaped the Nazi regime before the Holocaust, to name a few. Not a concentration camp liberator? Don’t worry – your story is no less important for others to hear! Veterans from all modern conflicts, such as the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars are also sharing their stories.

The younger generation would, thanks in part by your efforts, be more likely to develop into upstanding citizens who can rise above hatred and discrimination. They will know that many Jews have served in our nations armed forces and have, along with their families, sacrificed a great deal in defense of our land and liberty. The sharing of your story can impact the community in other ways as well. If you’re at an event with other veterans, they may be inspired to share their stories as well after watching you speak. You may also introduce citizens and communities to our organization who otherwise may never have heard of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. There are many reasons to share your story, and we invite you to do so!

Any veteran interested in sharing their story and wants to take the next step can contact JWV Headquarters, and we will be able to assist you. Upon request, the Programs Department at JWV Headquarters can provide additional direction on how to shape your story into something that listeners from all walks of life can appreciate.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Harrison Heller, Membership Coordinator

It has been ten years since the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which puts together the world’s mightiest superheroes. It all began with the introduction of Iron Man and now has culminated with the largest collection of superheroes on the big screen.  It was definitely worth the wait.

One of the founders of Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby, is considered to be “The King of Comics,” and he created a lot of the characters that fans have come to admire. However, most people do not know about Kirby’s Jewish military past:

Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg in 1917 to Austrian Jewish immigrants.  Growing up during the Great Depression on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Kirby’s life was rough to say the least.  Street fights were common, but he found relief in reading the colorful pages of comic books.  He was also a gifted storyteller by all accounts, which is probably something he got from listening to his parent’s stories growing up.  He had all the makings of a great comic book creator.

After a few stints drawing comic strips for newspapers, Kirby finally landed a big-time job at Timely Comics, which would eventually turn into the Marvel Comics we have all come to love.  At Timely, Kirby was already rolling up his sleeves and fighting with American Nazis that came to the building looking for Jews to beat up.  This fighting spirit of his carried over to his work.  On the first cover of Captain America, “Cap” is punching Hitler right in the face.  Throughout the early issues of Captain America, you can see Cap fighting time and time again with Hitler as the central villain.

On June 7, 1943, Jack Kirby was called away from the drawing board and drafted into the Army to fight Hitler off the page.  After doing his time in basic training, Kirby was sent to Europe on the front lines.  On arriving there, Kirby’s Lieutenant learned who he was, and he asked Kirby if he was the creator of Captain America.  Kirby enthusiastically responded “Yes sir. I drew Captain America,” and he made Kirby a Scout on the spot, telling him “You go into these towns that we don’t have and see if there is anybody there. Draw maps and pictures of what you see and come back and tell us if you find anything.”

His time overseas deeply affected him.  Being a scout, Kirby saw the worst humanity had to offer.  The time that affected him the most was his experience liberating a concentration camp.  Kirby recalled, “There were mostly women and some men; they looked like they hadn’t eaten for I don’t know how long. They were scrawny. Their clothes were all tattered and dirty. The Germans didn’t give a s*** for anything. They just left the place; just like leaving a dog behind to starve. I was standing there for a long time just watching thinking to myself, ‘What do I do?’ Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. All I could say was, ‘Oh, God.’”

There are various rumors on whether this was the actual occasion that Kirby finally punched a Nazi in the face.  What is known is that you can see the themes fascism and the Holocaust throughout his works.  One great example of this influence is in the X-Men character Magneto.  Magneto’s origins as a Holocaust survivor as well as the civil rights issues his character presents throughout the series clearly came from Kirby’s experiences during World War II.  Most of his villains embody some sort of fascism and are hell-bent on “perfecting” this world at whatever cost, which brings us back to Infinity War.

Avengers: Infinity War was released April 27, 2018 to huge fanfare. The film tells the story of Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Stones, six stones that date back to the creation of the universe. The stones include the Space Stone, Time Stone, Soul Stone, Power Stone, Mind Stone, and Reality Stone. If Thanos collects all six stones, he has the power to eliminate half of the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. He believes that this plan will lead to a higher quality of life for those who survived.

The movie starts off with the members of the Avengers divided, due to the events of the film Captain America: Civil War (currently available on Netflix). When the Black Order arrives and attempts to collect the Mind Stone from Vision and the Time Stone from Dr. Strange, the Avengers unite to take on Thanos and his army. The film concludes with the Battle of Wakanda where Thanos collects the sixth and final Infinity Stone, the Mind Stone. Thanos escapes and snaps his fingers. As people are dying, they turn to ash.  Keeping in mind that most the characters featured were created by Jack Kirby, this is just another example of how the themes of the Holocaust and fascism were written into his work.

The film does a phenomenal job of pairing the characters where their personalities work well with one another. You have Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Hulk/Bruce Banner, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Black Widow in Wakanda, a fictionalized African country. Rocket Racoon and Groot, of The Guardians of the Galaxy, with Thor getting Stormbreaker, Thor’s new hammer. Star Lord, Mantis, and Drax, of The Guardians of the Galaxy, with Iron Man/Tony Stark, Spiderman, and Dr. Strange on Titan preparing for the first encounter with Thanos.

Avengers Infinity War is a must see and is the epitome of a summer blockbuster. When the movie starts, it steps on the gas and never lets up. In honor of the late Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, I give this movie 2 thumbs way up.  Nevertheless, we at the Jewish War Veterans know this movie would have not been possible without Kirby’s Jewish military experiences, and to that, we tip our hat to you Mr. Kirby.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By RADM (ret) Harold Robinson, National Chaplain

Near the end of the Passover Seder, we play a table game called “Who knows…?” including “Who knows six? Six sections the Mishnah has!”  Following Passover, we begin reading one chapter a week of Mishnah Tractate Avoth, which translated means “Ethics of the Fathers”.  Avoth consists mostly of sage moral advice, aphorisms and a bit of theology attributed to the Tannaiem, the Rabbis of the land of Israel who lived up to around 200 CE.  Tractate Avoth is the source for many of our most familiar rabbinic dictums such as Hillel’s statement, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  And if I am for myself alone what am I?  And if not now, when?”  We read one of its six chapters each week for six weeks.  Traditionally, after concluding the reading, we repeat the cycle until the High Holidays.  Consequently, the entire tractate is found in most weekly Jewish Prayerbooks.  During this post Passover reading cycle, each Chapter is preceded by a prologue, a passage from an otherwise more difficult legal tractate, Sanhedrin; “’All Israel have a portion in the world to come,’ as it is said in Isaiah 60, ‘And all thy people shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever…’” thus affirming redemption – resurrection to eternal life in a perfected world- for all our people.

But our weekly reading of Sanhedrin is only an out of context snippet.  In its original context, the Sanhedrin passage deals with Israelites condemned to death by the court and affirms their punishment is only human, not divine, and that in the end of days the Holy One will redeem them along with the rest of us.  Moreover, the Tractate Sanhedrin passage continues by listing the exceptions – those categories of Israelites such as an apikoros, a heretic, who do not have a place in the world to come.  More detail on apikorsim, also known as hertics, will be given later. Included amongst the categories is a very short list of seven individually named unworthy Israelites.  Curiously, the list of unworthy Israelites singled out by name includes Balaam, the primary protagonist of the upcoming Torah portion entitled Balak, set to be read on 30 June 2018. Balaam was a non-Israelite prophet hired in by Balak, the King of Moab, to curse the Israelites in the wilderness.  However, each time he opened his mouth to curse the Israelite encampment a blessing came forth instead.  In fact, we recite his “blessing” each time we enter our synagogues for worship in the familiar refrain; Mah tovu ohalecha Ya-akov, mishcanotecha Yisrael, “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel?”

Balaam’s inclusion in the list of the unredeemed is curious for at least two reasons.

First, he was not Jewish, so why would we cite him in a list of Israelites excluded from life eternal in the world to come?  This appears to be clear evidence that our sages believed the righteous of all nations would be redeemed.  Judaism teaches non-Jews who follow the seven laws given to Noah are redeemed, “saved,” just as righteous Jews are “saved.”

Second, it is curious that the rabbis condemn as unworthy of redemption the author of one of our most familiar and beloved liturgical poems.  Why?  Because, as the text in Torah makes clear, Balaam knew full well his intended curse was false, not God’s.  Indeed, even the she-ass upon which he rode could see the folly of his mission to curse Israel and tried to steer him off his fateful misadventure.  Balaam clearly knew the truth but tried to recite falsehoods.  It seems Balaam’s willingness to say whatever suited the temporal powers around him, and his total disregard for truth and what is right makes him worthy of clear condemnation despite his beautiful liturgical poem, the one bit of truth that he uttered only when coerced.  Parenthetically, in Avoth the rabbis declare the she ass’ ability to talk as not a miracle but one of the ten wonders built into creation itself just as the first Shabbat approached.

Now more information about apikorsim– heretics. It’s not easy to be an apikoros.  You might imagine Judaism would declare an atheist, one who declares a non-belief in God or one without any faith to be an apikoros, to be outside the fold.  Yet many of our most esteemed Zionists, such as Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson, who was a leading founder and early intellectual leader of Labor Zionism, were avowed socialist atheists.  In their day, some argued they were apikorosim, but who amongst us today would declare these greats of Jewish history to be outside the fold?  Unlike these giants of our history, one who accepts some other faith is called a mishumad, an apostate, meaning one who lamentably has chosen to leave the fold.  

Many years ago, I was a representative of the Central Conference of American Rabbis to a conference on Education of the Consolidated Kibbutz Movement held at the kibbutz movement education and conference center, Bet Berl, named so after the aforementioned Berl Katznelson.  The director of education for the Kibbutz movement, also named Berl in honor of Katznelson, began by relating that his father kept him from studying traditional Jewish texts such as Mishnah because he wanted to raise him to be an apikoros, a heretic.  What he got instead was an am ha-aretz, an ignorant one.  An am ha-aretz could be learned in many fields but was ignorant of our tradition and its meaning, perhaps knowing a bit here as there as is taught to children, but not really understanding the whole of Jewish tradition on an adult level.  Much like Balaam, the cursed prophet who knew the truth and tried to reject it, one must really know Jewish tradition and consciously reject it to be considered an apikoros.  Anyone can be an am-haretz, but you must aspire to be knowledgeable enough, learned enough, to be an apikoros.  I do not wish for a generation of apikorsim, but it would be wonderful to be amongst those sufficiently knowledgeable to qualify for the title.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Ben Kane, Programs Assistant

A new Fast-Response Cutter (FRC) named after fallen servicemember DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal is set to be put into service in July 2018. The purpose of the FRC is to serve as a patrol vessel and carry out ship boardings, coastal security missions, search and rescue missions, and general national defense missions. The naming of this FCR after Bruckenthal continues the Coast Guard tradition of naming these ships after Coast Guard enlisted heroes. The naming of this particular cutter after Bruckenthal was announced by Admiral Robert Papp, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, on the 10th anniversary of Bruckenthal’s death.

Nathan was born on July 17, 1979 and grew up in Stony Brook, New York. After a period of service with the Ridgefield Connecticut Volunteer Fire Department following his high school graduation, he joined the Coast Guard in 1998, quickly demonstrating his talent and commitment to his country. In his spare time, Nathan volunteered for a variety of tasks to help the local Native American reservation where he was stationed. Nathan volunteered as a police officer, firefighter, EMT, and assistant high school football coach – demonstrating his love of the country, its citizens, and his willingness to serve and improve his community.  Following several years of commendable service while stationed in New York, Virginia and Washington State, he began serving in an elite tactical law enforcement program. In recognition of his talent during his service, Nathan Bruckenthal was among the first Coast Guardsmen chosen to be deployed to Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His responsibility during the conflict was to help patrol the North Arabian Gulf and conduct safety and security searches on vessels. The searches began as early as the morning after the initial naval bombardment of Iraq, when Bruckenthal and his team boarded a group of tugs who said they were stranded. The ships were found to contain a supply of automatic weapons and sea mines, and the Iraqi military personnel were arrested. After more patrols, boardings and trainings, Bruckenthal decided to remain in the Gulf for a second tour of duty.

One of Bruckenthal’s responsibilities was to instruct navy personnel on how to best conduct maritime operations. During a standard patrol of an important oil terminal in April 2004, several local fishing vessels approached and were turned away from the area by the U.S. forces. However, one vessel ignored the warnings, approached the oil terminal, and prompted servicemembers, including Bruckenthal, to board the ship. The insurgents aboard the ship, knowing they would not be able to proceed to their destination, detonated the explosives in the cargo bay of their ship, resulting in an explosion that fatally wounded Bruckenthal. Thus, Nathan Bruckenthal became not only one of the first Coast Guardsmen to serve in the Iraq war, but the only Coast Guardsman to die in the Iraq War or in any conflict since the Vietnam War. The actions of Bruckenthal and his men prevented the terrorists from approaching and harming the men on the nearby U.S.S. Firebolt, the oil platform and the oil terminal. As a result of his sacrifice, Bruckenthal was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star medal with Combat “V” for Valor, the Purple Heart, his second Combat Action Ribbon, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

As a testament to the respect and love that Nathan’s friends, family, and fellow servicemembers had for him, several other buildings, scholarships, and plaques have been named and placed in his honor. Among other honors, the barracks where he first served has been renamed in his honor, and a non-profit baby pantry was established to provide aid to military and civilian employees in Baltimore.  In addition, a fund, originally established to ensure his family would be cared for, has since been able to donate to causes like the Wounded Warrior Project, the Coast Guard Foundation, and Brooke Army Medical Center’s Center for the Intrepid.

Nathan Bruckenthal left behind a pregnant wife who gave birth to their daughter, Harper Natalie Bruckenthal, in November 2004. DC3 Bruckenthal’s sacrifice for the sake of the United States and in defense of his fellow countrymen serves as an example for all who choose to enter the armed services.  We invite all members of JWV to come to the USCGC Nathan Bruckenthal’s commissioning on July 25, 2018 in Alexandria, VA.  We hope to see you there.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Anna Selman, Programs and Public Relations Coordinator

On April 3, 2018, Marine Captain Samuel Schultz passed away in during a military aviation training accident in Southern California.  He was 28 years old.  A born and raised Philadelphia native, Capt. Schultz was described as “fearless” and “a driven individual”.  He joined the military 6 years ago – following in the footsteps of his family with that same fearless attitude.

His funeral was held in his hometown of Philadelphia, PA on April 15, 2018, and the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. was there.  According to Post Commander Bruce Kanis, “1,100 people were at the Funeral Chapel ranging from a 4 Star USMC General Magnus to Admirals to Lance Corporals to many of his friends from both coasts.  We (JWV) provided a full JWV service along with another Gold Star Memorial Plaque from Post 215 to the family.  At the grave, I presented a full Veteran Detail of JWV, American Legion, Marine Leatherneck, and Warrior Watch members who gave proper salute and honors during the service in conjunction with a full Marine Honor and Firing Detail.”

However, questions on why and how this happened has overwhelmed military leadership.  Since training season began in the spring, at least 27 US service members have died in noncombat-related crashes of military aircraft and more injured.  It has plagued all the services – Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force alike.  So, the question is why is this happening and why now?

As in all military accidents, investigations into each individual accident started with each crash.  However, each individual investigation will not look into the magnitude of the situation.  As I am typing this, a proposal to create an independent national commission on military aviation safety, offered by HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith just passed the committee by a unanimous voice vote – meaning there will be a Congressional review of all military aviation accidents from 2013 to 2018.

Why 2013?  That is because 2013 is the year that the Sequestration started to ramp up.  According to a report by the Military Times, the Sequestration disproportionately affected maintenance and operations budgets – cutting the budget by 1 trillion dollars during its effect.  The military decided to cut flight hours, maintenance on heavy aircraft and to delay replacing old equipment.  Military personnel, such as ground maintenance crews, were let go, and we are now starting to see the effects of those decisions.

However, operational requirements did not change from 2012 to 2013, which means that pilots were flying the same amount of missions with a smaller amount of aircraft and a smaller group of pilots and maintenance crews.  In 2016, the problem started show itself.  The Air Force realized that it was facing a shortage of 700 fighter pilots and a shortage of 2,500 ground-maintenance workers.

The aircraft that Captain Schultz flew on April 3rd was a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.  The Marine Corps currently has 143 CH-53Es in its inventory, despite having a requirement for 200 heavy-lift helicopters. On average, only 37 percent of them are flyable at any given time. Difficulties in keeping the aircraft airworthy, in turn making it hard for pilots to get in adequate flying hours to remain proficient in the various tasks the helicopter performs, have undoubtedly contributed to a string of deadly accidents with the type.

In turn, we have seen deadly accidents coming from stateside training exercise increase the past couple of years.  We know service members sign up for the military knowing full well that they might die in combat, but what they do not sign up for is dying in a training accident.  The best way we can honor Captain Schultz’s memory is to make sure that our service members have proper equipment and training before we send them out to the field.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Ben Kane, Programs Assistant

After a servicemember dies, their families grieve and celebrate the life of their loved one in a variety of ways. Some choose not to publicize their grief, but some choose to go in the opposite direction. One of the ways that fallen servicemembers have been remembered is by the naming of buildings after them. Staff Sergeant Peter Taub is one such fallen servicemember to be given such posthumous recognition. SSgt Taub was killed by a suicide bomber while on tour in Afghanistan in December 2015. Here in the states, in the town of Wyncote, Pennsylvania, a way to remember him and celebrate his life has been made official. A post office has been officially slated to be renamed the “Staff Sergeant Peter Taub Post Office Building.”

The bill to authorize the renaming was put through the House of Representatives by Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-13). “Staff Sergeant Peter Taub was a shining example of the best our country has to offer. In his service to our nation, he exemplified unwavering patriotism and heroic bravery. Renaming this post office in his home town is the least we can do to honor him; a small but important symbol of our eternal thanks,” Boyle said. SSgt Taub has received several posthumous medals, such as the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

Taub, married and with a second child on the way, planned to help run the family business- a beloved sandwich shop in downtown Washington D.C. called Bub and Pop’s, once he had returned from active duty. Sadly, Taub’s plans of a complete family and working in a place he loved were to be unfulfilled, and his family devastated by death. Eventually, time will help mend the wounds his loved ones have suffered. But until then, and long after, a small part of SSgt Taub’s legacy will exist for generations to come.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

By Gavin Ellman, Post 112

Unsurprisingly, it was hot in Iraq the day I left. The first thing I felt when we landed back home was profound joy; the second was profound cold since I was standing outside in the middle of an Alaskan winter night. Thus began the first of many conflicting emotions.

Of course, returning home is wonderful. My first weeks home from my tours were times of happiness. There was so much I’d missed. From the little conveniences of just being in air conditioning, to the big celebrations of seeing the people I loved and missed so much. But there was also the struggle to adjust, which crept into my life as the excitement started to fade.

At first it was little things. I missed the convenience of free water bottles in every office or truck. I had to find an apartment and, occasionally, buy groceries. There were bills, chores, and all those little headaches of life. But there was also something big missing.

Overseas, and in the military in general, I knew what to do. I had a place and I had a purpose. I didn’t appreciate it fully when I was there, but I felt its absence more and more the longer I was home. 12-hour patrols were grueling, but they were familiar burdens. I knew who to count on and who counted on me.

After my first tour, the pressures of military life and the promise of the next tour meant I didn’t have to fully confront this uncomfortable absence for long. But when I finally did transition from active duty, there was no avoiding it: what was I going to do with this freedom I’d apparently been fighting for?

I left Fort Benning for the last time in August 2015 and in many ways, it was more difficult than redeploying from Iraq or Afghanistan. I was heading for Atlanta and a new life. I wasn’t coming back. After 10 years of active service, I hadn’t realized how comfortable I’d become in the Army. The thought that “this is my last paycheck” rattled me. What was I going to do? How would I fit back into a community where I’d always be “the Army guy”? For months, even my haircut still said I was in the Army. I did eventually give up the reflective belt, at least.

There are many resources out there to help, of course. The Army has its required classes. There are countless companies and organizations reaching out. But those didn’t help me feel any less alone. Classes and forms can’t help with that.

Only people could.

There was my wife, who was with me for every step of the journey. She believed in me and in our shared future. I knew I could count on her and, even better, I knew she counted on me.

And there were those that went before me to start new lives and careers outside the service. A retired chaplain introduced me to the Jewish community of Atlanta, where we now make our home. My former engineering instructor coached me through the painful process of applying to business school, where I met other veterans on similar paths. Beyond the practical help we could offer each other, just knowing there were others made all the difference.

And that’s why I believe in Jewish War Veterans. Not only are we connected by common service, we are connected by our shared faith, culture, and bond as a people. JWV brings together all branches and generations and can bridge the gap between those in service, those who have served, and the vibrant Jewish communities that exist throughout the country.

We know there’s much work to do. We need to build the bridges between the younger generation of Jewish American Warriors and the historical membership base of JWV. Our differences are real. We communicate in different ways, are at different phases of life, and perhaps expect different things from our local post. But I know that which binds us—our service and our Jewish identify—counts for far, far more.

With so many young Jewish veterans struggling as they come home, it’s time for JWV to come home and take its place at the intersection of Jewish military and civilian life.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018