Earlier this week, I went to visit my parents. They are doing well and still in New Jersey, getting ready to head to Florida after Thanksgiving. Thank God, my parents and healthy and doing a lot with their time. Among the things I spoke about with my father was my plan for his upcoming significant birthday and something that he had done the previous day that was important to him. My father is a very proud veteran of the US Army and in recent years has connected with the American Jewish War Veterans. He attends many meetings and was recently asked to participate in a Veterans Day Parade. He was honored to be asked and thrilled to ride in a nice car and wave to the people watching the parade. He told me how good he felt when people saluted him and how honored he was to serve his country.
My father served in the US Army before I was born so his stories are close to 60 years old but still very important to him. In recent years, he finds it very meaningful to make sure people know how many Jewish veterans there are. He feels a close connection to other Jewish veterans and recently acted on this feeling in a meaningful way. This past summer, my parents went to France on vacation. In addition to seeing Paris, my father was very determined for the first time to go to Normandy and see the military cemetery near Omaha Beach. He told me when he was there that he was so moved by the experience, and so honored to visit the graves of these young men who lost their lives serving our country, that he took the time to stand next to as many graves as he could to say Kaddish for these young men.
I share this all with you today because this Monday our country will observe Veterans Day. We will pause as a nation to salute and thank those men and women who have served our country. I know of members of our congregation who are US military veterans, and many of them have shared their personal stories with me. I asked a few of them to be with us on Shabbat morning to participate in a meaningful way in our service and to perhaps share some personal words about their service. I also plan to include a special prayer for our soldiers and veterans and family members, different from the prayer we usually say on Shabbat.
I encourage all of us to say a prayer for our veterans and our soldiers this week. We should all pray for their safety and we should express our gratitude for their heroic service. I recently came across this prayer for veterans drafted by National Museum of American Jewish Military History Chaplain Michael Bloom:
Give thanks to the Eternal, for God is good, God's mercy endures forever.
Avinu Shebashamayim - O Sovereign of the universe, bless our nation, The United States of America.
Safeguard it and its ideals of freedom and liberty.
Bless our Veterans, our Defenders of Liberty, who braved danger to defend us from tyranny.
Grant healing and recovery to those who have been wounded physically or emotionally.
Keep their spirits high and make them resilient in the aftermath of danger and loss.
Grant our Veterans opportunities to attest to the sincerity of their gratitude, as we today attest to our gratitude to them and to our reliance on You.
May they find spiritual joy in love of home and family, and in faithfulness to your Torah.
We pray for individual and collective peace and tranquility.
None who puts faith in You need ever feel friendless or forsaken.
Baruch Atah Hashem, Gomel Chassadim Tovim.
And let us all say, Amen.
Rabbi Adam Feldman