My son (Yeshiva Bochur, aka Exiled Warrior) stands at a soldier's grave, and shares his thoughts. I can add nothing but my usual prayer: May our dear soldier sons all live to be really old men, with interesting but mostly joyful stories to tell their great-grandchildren.
Memorial Day for the Fallen IDF Soldiers. Three years ago, I didn't even know this day existed. Today I stand on Mt. Herzl dressed in an IDF uniform with a red beret on my head. I stand before a gravesite of a soldier who died in 1977 in a tragic helicopter accident. I am soon overwhelmed by family members of all ages. His elderly sister, I believe, was telling stories about her brother, and about the day they heard the news. Her eyes are filled with tears. Wounds like that never seem to heal. All around me are graves surrounded by families. At exactly 11:00, the piercing siren goes off.
As a soldier I stand at attention, hands by my sides and my feet pressed firmly together. My eyes are set ahead, my head is raised. I feel the strength, the pride, to be a defender of my people.
The siren washes around in my head, cutting through my thoughts. I think of all my brethren, but mostly the smiling face of Major Roi Klein burns into my mind. He is my definition of a hero. He was just as much a hero in life as he was in death. A true soldier for God, these were his final words as he threw himself on the grenade to save his fellow soldiers: "Hear O Yisrael, Hashem your God, Hashem is One." To have that focus the moment before death can only be brought about by conscience preparation. A constant dedication and readiness to sacrifice for his God, his people, his Land.
It is upon this Land that I stand now. The nation freezes, no one moves. The siren wails and it is as if life itself is paused. The past, present and future seem to melt into one entity. A woman weeps. Maybe a mother mourning her son? A girlfriend? A wife? A daughter? The whole nation feels the pain, the loss. These young men and women were taken from us far too young because they decided to put everything on the line, because they know, as the words of the country song go: "Freedom don't come free."
What a strong people! I believe there must have been a time that America stood in silence honoring their fallen soldiers, but that spirit has long since withered if not all together vanished. My father being a retired Major from the US military took his sons to the wall in Washington D.C. honoring the soldiers who fell in Vietnam. He took us to Arlington, and other such monuments, but how many people my age can claim that?
But here, in Israel, everyone from young to old feels the heaviness of the moment. The grandmother standing by her husband’s grave, patting it softly, says with tear-filled eyes: "You were right Yossele. It was worth it. You see your grandson, he just drafted. He says you’re his hero. You would be so proud. I love you, my Yossele."
This is our secret. This is why we are indestructible. This is why we are eternal. I am so proud to serve you, my dear Nation. To stand with you, cry with you, laugh with you -- and tomorrow we will barbecue together, as we celebrate our freedom! And Roi Klein, Michael Levin, Yoni Netanyahu, and Yossele will rejoice with us! May their sacrifice on behalf of Am Yisrael merit us the bringing of Moshiach and the final Redemption.
This post is dedicated to all the heroes who have fallen protecting their nation, their Land. We will never forget you.