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September 25, 1970 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1970-09-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

GIs in Vietnam Id entify With Jewishness and Israel

By MM. ALBERT HORNBLASS

Prayer books and talesim were
provided by the Jewish Welfare
Board. Suddenly I found myself
the Jewish lay leader to the
"Pleiku Congregation."
Itmatters little whether any
attending the University of Cincinnati
or all of these young men were
Medical College, he served in addition
observant in their civilian lives
to his military duties as a lay spiritual
leader to Jewish servicemen in his
at home. What matters is that
area where no Jewish chaplain was
in this strange place, Isolated
atailable. It was in that role that he
made certain discoveries about Jewish
from
the world, in the middle
Gls in Vietnam , which he relates la the
of a war, they had a fierce desire
following personal account written for
the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. For
to
affirm
their identities as
his service as an ophthalmic surgeon
Jews.
in Vietnam, Maj. Hornblass was
awarded the Bronze Star and was dec-
We observed the major Jewish
orated by the Vietnamese government
with its Medal of Honor, First Class. holidays. On Rosh Hashana, Yom
He is still serving in the U.S. Army
and is stationed at Fort Meade, Mary- Kippur and Passover, Jewish GIs
land The viewpoint expressed in this from all over the Two Corps area
article is the author's personal view
and in no way reflects the official attended services, many of them
policy and thinking of the Department with weapons slung over their
of Defense and the United States shoulders. They were of all ranks,
Army./
I was one of many scores of from lowly privates to the colonel
thousands of Jewish men fulfilling commanding the Air Force base
whose example was responsible in
their obligation to serve our coun- great
measure for the increased at-
try and like many others now- tendance..
Rank was dispensed with
• adays, I entered the army to be on these occasions.
We were in
sent almost directly to a combat fact like a synagogue brotherhood
zone, South Vietnam.
with
everyone
on
a
first name
Jewish servicemen, like most bisis.
-
other American soldiers, marines
On
Rosh
Hashana,
1969,
and airmen in the war zone are ed 90, men from my base I escort-
by air
apolitical when it comes to South- to Nhadrang where the Jewish
east Asia. Their sole, over-riding chaplain
arranged
services.
What -
desire is to go home in one piece a thrill it was for me to see some
and they ardently support _any- 250 of our kinsmen worshiping
thing that will bring that day together in this remote part of the
closer.
I knew when entering the army world with the rumble of artillery
that there would be certain per- in the background.
A kosher meal was provided
sonal problems I would have to
face as an observant Jew, not the by the JWB. Then I made an
least of them keeping kashrut and appeal for the UJA. Despite the
observing the Sabbath. These fact that these were soldiers in
proved to be no problem during a war zone, they demonstrated
my basic training at Fort Sam strong feelings of kinship for
Houston, Texas. The army was their brethren in Israel and in
most considerate. But circum- the U.S.A. We maintained the
stances in Vietnam are far dif- UJA campaign throughout the
ferent. One of my first problems year and collected several thou-
on arriving was to find fellow sand dollars from these GIs, I
Jews with whom to worship and had a sign posted at our base
with whom I could enjoy the that read, "Shalom—please sive
to the UJA."
comradeship of my own kind.
Perhaps the most heartening
There were no statistics on the thing
I found among our Jewish
number of Jews serving in Viet- servicemen
was their strong
nam. When I arrived, in the identification with
During
spring of 1969, the total U.S. Yom Haatzmaut — IsraeL
22nd
force numbered somewhat over birthday—we made Israel's
an
elaborate
400,000. It was estimated by party and invited in addition to all
some sources that there were Jewish personnel, the chaplains"
about 2,000 Jews among them, and commanding officers of other
though I have reason to believe faiths. The food service officer was
that figure is too low. In the Jewish and with his help we had a
vast Two Corps area of the Cen-• magnificent repast followed by He,
teal Highlands where I was as- brew and Israeli music, readings
signed, there Were about 500 from the Book of Psalms and a -re-
Jewish army and air force men. view of Israel's history. The event -
The commanding officer of the was announced by the Armed
Air Force base, a career officer Forces Radio, and needless to say
with the rank of full colonel, we had an excellent 'turnout.
turned out to be Jewish, and
Although I did my best to carry
became a very much committed out the responsibilities of a chap-
Jew.'
lain, the fact that only three Jew-
When I landed in that moun- ish chaplains are available in all
tainous region with its triple Vietnam gives our Jewish young
canopy of jungle, my first inten- men there a feeling that somehow
tion was to seek out the Jewish they are neglected. This must not
chaplain. Imagine my dismay happen when they return home.
when I learned there was none
available in the Pleiku area; there
are in fact only three Jewish
chaplains in all of Vietnam and
no native Jewish community to
speak of, even in Saigon.
The Protestant chaplain told me
there were Jewish personnel in
the area and I -spent all of my
free time those first days going
from post to post to seek them
out. By my first Friday night I
had found three Jewish men to
attend services. It was far from
a minyan but we worshipped
nevertheless in the empty post
chapel at the Air Force Base which
is used by all -faiths. In a short
time our little jungle congrega-
tion had expanded to 15 men.

(Copyright Mg, 5TA, Int.)
(Editor's note: Maj. Albert Hornblas s
31, a surgeon in the U.S. Army Medical
Corps., just returned from Vietnam
where he was a senior medical officer
at the 71st Evacuation Hospital at
Pleiku in the Central Highlands. A
graduate of Yeshiva Unversity
i
before

THE DETROIT JEWISH HEWS

I believe the young Jewish GI
in Vietnam is ready to make the
most important personal commit-
ment of his life. He has identified
himself strongly with Judaism and
with Israel, in large degree be-
cause of his experience in Vietnam.
When he returns home—and God
willing, may all of them tome
home — he will be undergoing
another crucial experience — re-
adjusting to civilian life in a con-
fused, sometimes warring society.
As at Pleiku, and a hundred other
spots in Vietnam, he will seek
something strong, affirmative and
lasting to cling to. It can be
Judaism to which he makes his
life-long commitment. But that
depends on how he is received and
treated by the Jewish community.

Frkieff, Seplisise 2S, 1172-7

Groups Mark Liberation

LOS ANGELES (JTA)—Sixteen
Jewish organizations will mark the
25th anniversary of the liberation
of Nazi concentration camps at a
citywide observance to be held at
the Westside Jewish Community
Center here Oct. 18.

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