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

CPL Morris Meshulam’s name on the “Court of the Missing” at the Honolulu Memorial

By Anna Selman, Programs and Public Relations Coordinator

UPDATE WASHINGTON – On September 23, Army Cpl. Morris Meshulam remains were buried in Indianapolis. Meshulam died at the age of 19 in 1950 from malnutrition, frostbite and gangrene after being captured as a Prisoner of War (POW) during the Korean war.

UPDATE 9/14/2018 – JWV has been made aware that the ceremony will take place on Sunday, September 23rd at Etz Chaim Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.  All those who wish to attend the ceremony should contact the Etz Chaim Synagogue ensure there is enough space.  JWV has ensured that a JWV member will be in attendance to be there for our battle buddy.  For any more questions, please email us at

WASHINGTON – On June 4, 2018, JWV received a notification from the U.S. Army that the remains of CPL Morris Meshulam had been identified.  CPL Meshulam, who died 67 years earlier, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 11, 1931 to Sam and Pauline Meshulam.  His parents were founding members of the Etz Chaim Congregation, which is a small community of Sephardic Jews in Indianapolis.  According to the family, Moe dropped out of High School when he was 18 to sign up for the Army.

The little that we know of CPL Meshulam, or Moe as he liked to be called, comes from his surviving family – his sister Rose and his nephews Sam and Morris.  Rose was contact by Army a couple of weeks ago, and she was in “total shock” that her baby brother was finally found.  CPL Meshulam’s brother Jack and his twin sister Rae gave their DNA to DOD officials to 2006 to help identify Moe’s body.  Finally, Jack, Moe and Rae will finally be brought together in the family plot in Indianapolis later this year.

From what we do know about CPL Meshulam’s service, he completed basic training, and afterwards, he was sent to Korea to be part of Battery D of the 82nd Anti-Aircraft Battalion in the 2nd Infantry Regiment on July of 1950.  His first battle must have been on August 31st when the North Koreans attacked their position on the Nantong River Line, which resulted in a 16-day battle that ended up with the unit gaining more territory for United Nation forces.  It is likely that after this battle Meshulam was promoted to Corporal.

CPL Morris Meshulam in uniform.

His Division was within fifty miles of the Manchurian border when Chinese forces entered the fight, and during the Battle of the Ch’ongch’on River, his unit’s mission was to protect the rear and right flank of the Eighth Army as it retreated to the South.  After this battle, while surrounded and outgunned, CPL Meshulam’s Battery fought through what later was known as “The Gauntlet” – a valley where UN forces faced road blocks and heavy fire from Chinese forces.  His unit lost nearly one third of its remaining soldiers.  CPL Meshulam was captured in the Gaunlet near Kunu-ri on December 1, 1950 and taken as a Prisoner of War.  He later died in January 11th of 1951 either from severe malnutrition or injuries that he received during the battle.

The remains of soldiers that died in North Korea were returned by the North Koreans in two waves: one in 1954 (also known as Operation Glory) and another from 92-94.  It is estimated that out of the 4,219 bodies that were returned, 416 bodies were unable to be identified.  All unidentified soldiers were placed in the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The DoD has led a massive effort to identify the remains of these soldiers – about 90 military researchers are currently working at labs in Hawaii, Nebraska and Ohio to identify the bones of Americans as we speak.  The number varies from year to year, but they approximately identify around 30-50 remains a year through advanced DNA techniques.  Since CPL Meshulam’s remains have been accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name on the “Court of the Missing” at the Honolulu Memorial to mark that he now rests in a known gravesite.

JWV is grateful to the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army and the Korean War Project for ensuring that CPL Morris Meshulam can finally come home.  Although we do not have a date yet, we have been in contact with the family, and we have shared our sympathies and support for them.  We have been in contact with the Department Commander of Ohio, who has stated that they are committed to being at the funeral when it takes place.  Our goal at JWV is to ensure that each and every veteran is able to come home, and we are so glad that after 67 years, we can finally say that CPL Morris Meshulam is coming home.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 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.