There is no understanding the army – it’s as simple as that. You just accept what they tell you is their schedule, knowing it might change, and deal.
Well, forget normally. Shmulik went to a ceremony last night marking Israel’s Memorial Day – a day to remember our fallen soldiers. Different units have different ways of marking the day. Many divisions send a soldier to stand by the grave of a fallen soldier from the same division. All soldiers from artillery who have fallen in our country’s history, will have a soldier stand by his grave today. There when the family comes to visit their son or daughter; there to show a continued commitment to their loved one’s memory.
Elie did that one year…it was an emotional day for him, for the family, and for me. Other years, the moments were marked on bases – even once on an army bus that stopped as the siren wailed and there, on the side of the road, they marked their ceremony. Another time, they were in the desert. Elie’s commander assembled his men at the time of the siren – stood them at attention – turned the jeep radio on loud so that they could hear the siren, there where there are no sounds…they paid their respects.
The army is too new to Shmulik’s unit. They aren’t even wearing the berets marking them as part of the Kfir division and so they had a ceremony last night and early this morning, they released the boys home for today and for tonight and tomorrow – marking Israel’s Independence Day. As deeply and completely as we mourn today…we will, amazingly enough, celebrate tonight and tomorrow.
We stop and say thank you to the soldiers who have fallen. We stop and remind them that they were loved, are loved, and always, always remembered…and then we say – watch us as we celebrate what you fought for.
Last night, I attended the ceremony here in our city, attended by thousands. As it ended, Shmulik called and told me he would be on an early bus. I picked him up and we talked on the way home. Shmulik is my animal lover – anything that moves. We were once at a safari and a small goat was separated from its mother. Shmulik insisted that we had to stop the car, get the goat and take it home because it was lost. He was in tears when we refused.
My parents, also animal lovers, have an English Mastiff named…of all things…Big. Big has a problem and has to go to the veterinarian. It’s hard for my father to walk the distance and so I thought, if Shmulik is off Thursday, he could go visit his grandparents and do the walk with the dog. I mentioned this earlier and Shmulik agreed.
On the way home this morning, I asked him about Thursday and I watched him hesitate. Yes, he’s coming home on Thursday after our visit to base (more on that later)…but…he doesn’t think he can walk Big.
“Why?” I asked.
“I fell a little and hurt my leg.”
As young children, most of my kids came running over with any minor scrap. Some, you needed a magnifying glass to identify; some were so small, you almost felt like you were committing a national crime if you used a bandage. Not Shmulik – he was the silent one. If he comes to complain about a headache, he usually has a raging fever.
“How little…how hurt?” I asked him, already wondering. “Did you break something?”
“No,” he answered. Not much more information there.
I’ll spare you the long time it took me to get the information – he is fine; will be fine. They were running up and down a mountain side and he landed on a rock (a common enough occurrence in the desert) and went flying. His commanding officer came to him right away. He got back up…finished the course…and as they were standing there…well, that’s when it became apparent that he was scraped up and bruised up.
He’s got scrapes on his hands, a small cut on his leg and a huge bruise on his hip. He landed on his gun. “I guess the gun won this one,” I said after seeing the black and blue and yellowing bruise almost the size of my hand.
“No,” Shmulik corrected me, “I won. It was on the floor, I wasn’t.”
I guess that sums up so much of my beautiful second son. Anyway, as to the pun…I thought of writing something about his having fallen but on a day that commemorates 22,682 fallen sons, it would have been, at best, a bad pun on a sad day and so I’ll cry a little today when I think of those soldiers and I’ll smile a bit when I think of mine.
The memorial candle flickers there on our side table, a constant reminder if it were needed, that we cannot forget. Tomorrow is our Independence Day – tomorrow we will celebrate, have a barbecue, sit outside and do no work…tonight, somewhere around 8:00 p.m., we will release ourselves from this sadness, this choking need to remember each name, each life, each story.
We will do this because this is what they died for – our freedom, our right to celebrate in our land. All that they did, all that they were, all that they gave…comes down to our being in our land, where we belong. It is only right that we first thank them, remember them, mourn again that they aren’t here with us.