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Honoring the Courage Within Us All

One of the great joys of working at Lev LaLev is keeping in touch with some of the most generous people on the planet. From India to France, Israel to Arkansas, there’s a common thread of goodness and eagerness to make this world a better place. Everyone knows that he or she can make a difference individually and that, together, we can achieve more than we could have ever imagined.

How fitting it is to contemplate this today, Veteran’s Day 2011, the annual holiday which honors former members of the armed forces who fought and even gave their lives for the freedoms we in America enjoy each day.

I am proud to say that some of our supporters consist of this prestigious group, while others are active members of the military, still defending our way of life and the values we hold dear. These military personnel are based overseas, in Germany and Afghanistan and across the US. (One donor develops Blackhawk, Shinook and Apache helicopters here in the US).

Rachel's father, William R. Elmendorf, Radio Operator in the 80th Airborne Group Carrier Squadron, 436th Troop Carrier Group

As the granddaughter of a World War I soldier, daughter of a World War II Sergeant/Radio Operator and Pilot, and the niece of a Vietnam War Lieutenant Colonel, (I mean, I was even BORN on an Air Force base, for goodness’ sakes!) I must confess my particular interest in donors with military connections. What’s most interesting to me, however, is when they mention their status as veterans of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars. In those moments, I’m reminded again how times have changed.

As a young girl, the veterans I knew were from one of the World Wars or the Korean War. The Vietnam War was still being fought. The fact that I was related to someone who helped land the troops on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day wasn’t such a novelty. In any case, as someone who helped liberate prisoners from concentration camps, my father’s experience in the war was sometimes too traumatic to discuss. (On another note, my father-in-law was one of those prisoners, on the opposite side of history.)

In the 1980s, an era without the Internet research technology we have today, my father began a mission to find his old war buddies. Armed only with a phone and his friends at the library, he created a database of hundreds of airmen from his division. He created yearly reunions, whose attendance sadly diminished with each passing year as his generation began to fade away. His drive to reconnect with those years even led him to find the airplane used on their missions.  http://www.centercomp.com/dc3/gallery/collections/Bos_Jan/Bos_02.htm

When he passed away in 2009, approaching his 86th birthday, the Air Force honored him as a World War II hero, a fitting tribute to an original member of its first division. We still have the plate from when he attended the 1947 ceremony commemorating the establishment of the US Air Force as separate and equal element of the US armed forces.

The Plate

Obviously, I can’t speak for all veterans. But my father used to say that, in spite of the fear, destruction and death, his war years were the best of his life. The friendships formed then could not have been deeper. It’s as if these men share a secret camaraderie and perspective on living that few can understand.

Perhaps he felt this way because of the heightened emotion of fighting for a cause he truly believed in. It was a world under siege. Life seemed bleak. No one could be blamed for giving up hope.

But there were always those individuals who never stopped believing that some good would come out of the horrors of war. They never stopped striving towards their vision, no matter the odds against it.

Wars can be fought on many levels; veterans come in all forms. While today we pay tribute to those who fought bravely for lands and freedoms, we can also contemplate the individuals who fought wars of the spirit. People who encouraged others to believe that there was no end to their potentials in life.

Last week, the world lost a veteran of a spiritual war. Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, z’tl, passed away. As the head of the Mir Yeshiva, the largest in Israel with 6,000 students, one can hardly imagine how he managed to develop personal and sincere connections with so many. Here is a link to his unbelievable story.

http://jewishmom.com/2011/11/09/the-boy-in-the-chicago-cubs-cap-who-changed-the-world/

Perhaps there’s no greater honor to veterans than to believe in their vision and strive within ourselves to make this world a better place.

Where do you think we should start?

Wishing you a meaningful day,

Rachel Weinstein

Director of Development

6 comments

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  1. Randy Burk

    Your probably don’t remember me, I grew up next to you in Lebanon, Illinois. I was older the you and did not know you. However, I remember my mom saying what a good man your father was and now, I learn from you that he was a great man. I hope your memories of him continue to bring you comfort the rest of your life.

    Randy Burk

    1. Rachel Weinstein

      Hello, Randy.

      Yes, I think I was a generation behind you. If you ever noticed the kids next door, I was the little girl with her older brother, leveling areas in the cornfield behind our houses so we could make forts and have corncob fights with our friends (yeah, the farmer was kind of upset at times….)(but that’s what you get growing up next to an Air Force Base 😉

      Randy, thanks so much for your comments. I feel fortunate to be in a position which allows me to see the generosity of our servicemen (and women) towards the orphaned and disadvantaged girls at the Home. And I’m so glad I to share it.

      Best of luck to you and yours,

      R

  2. esther

    I agree with Eliezer, this tribute is utterly stirring. May we have peace on earth and never have to fight wars again! Amen

    1. Rachel Weinstein

      Amen to that! And thanks so much for your vote of confidence. It means so much more than you know.

      R

  3. eliezer

    Dear Rochel……

    I read the tribute to your father, written with deep emotion. It was utterly stirring. The beauty of your thoughts lie beyond the personal emtions you expressed for him. You have transformed him into an icon of dedication and resolve and lionized a whole generation of men and women who gave life and limb so that we can live today.

    You’ve enhanced the meaning of Veterans Day. Thank you.

    eliezer

    1. Rachel Weinstein

      Hello, Eliezer.

      Your comments touched my heart. Thank you.

      R

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