By: Marcy Frost
I am writing this from a hotel lobby. Beginning tomorrow, I will be participating in a two and a half day training session for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (“ESGR”). ESGR is a program of the United States Department of Defense with which I have been involved for the past six years as a volunteer Ombudsman. As an Ombudsman, I work with members of the military who are having problems with their civilian employers. I explain the governing law (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act – USERRA) to the servicemember and the employer and try to find a resolution that brings the employer into compliance with the law.
Through my work with ESGR, I have come to have a great respect for the sacrifice of the men and women who serve in the military. They put their lives on hold to serve their country, but their return home is often fraught with struggles.
I have a nephew who is currently serving in the Israeli Air Force, which has shown me another side of the sacrifice required of military servicemembers. While my kids are in college worrying about things like, “Who’s having a party this weekend?” and “Where should I go for spring break?”, my nephew is putting in endless hours studying to be a navigator so he can serve his country.
I have another relative who graduated from West Point a few years ago and recently returned from a year of service in Afghanistan. During his “tour” in Afghanistan, he sent an email to his friends and family asking people to send him batteries because they were going out on night guard duty without functioning flashlights. I was shocked to learn that he had to look to his own resources for such a basic supply.
I don’t always agree with the decisions that are made about where troops are needed or what should be their goal, but supporting the servicemembers is not the same as supporting the policies or decisionmakers. The work that I do with ESGR is my way of giving back to those who have given so much. Our congregations and sisterhoods have found other ways of supporting the troops. Some congregations and sisterhoods send much needed “care packages” to members of the congregation who serve in the military. Others have sent food, blankets, and other supplies to military units even without a congregational connection. At the WRJ Assembly last December, many districts made blankets for a veteran organization. A prayer for those serving in the military has been added to the liturgy in many congregations. There are many ways that we can give back to those who serve in the military (whether it is in the U.S., Canada, Israel, or elsewhere). They give so much, so the least we can do is to do something!
Marcy R. Frost is WRJ Midwest District First Vice President and a member of Temple Israel, Minneapolis, MN.