Home October 2012 Touch of Home

Touch of Home

Anyone who has ever been the only Jewish person in the class, company or neighborhood knows something about loneliness.  Imagine how much more magnified that feeling is when someone is thousands of miles from home on a military mission.
Major Scott Westerfield of the U.S. Marine Corps knows that feeling well.  He has spent two Passovers in the desert of southwest Afghanistan, missing his wife and five children.  “What helps is the sense of community and knowing that life goes on back home,” said the native Floridian who serves as the Jewish military representative at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province.
Thanks to Denise Goodson, a Mission Viejo resident who established Soldiers Angels in 2007 to help connect Jewish troops with people back home, Westerfield and his counterparts are a lot less lonely.  And thanks to the students of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo Hebrew School, the message is even more personal.
Students at the school, which is under the direction of Rebbitzen Bassie Marcus, have been writing letters to Westerfield.  On September 9 he came to thank them in person and give them an American flag.
“Although far from home, the loving letters and generous care packages you all provided us have gone a long way to making us feel like we’re safe and happy at home again (or as close to it as one can get out here in the literal desert),” he told them in a note after Passover.  Before presenting the flag to Rabbi Zalman Marcus, spiritual leader of Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Major Westerfield said that he and his fellow members of the armed services “always appreciate that we’re in your hearts back here.”
Westerfield, who has been in the Marine Corps since 2005, shared the news that he has been selected to be a lieutenant colonel.  He “grew up secular and was reborn Jewishly in his 30s,” he said.  He is glad that the U.S. military allows soldiers to wear a kippah, “so you can show proudly that you’re a Jew.”  He said he runs into MOTs (members of the tribe) wherever he goes.
Goodson said she “feels sorrier for the Jewish troops than anyone else, because they are so isolated.”  It is “one of my passions” to facilitate communication between people in the U.S. and the Jewish troops, sending boxes of matzah and grape juice for Passover and appropriate “care packages” for other holidays, along with hand-written notes and cards.  While Westerfield serves on a base, many of the soldiers are in remote areas and really appreciate the touch of home.
Students at the Hebrew school and their parents, who came for the presentation, an orientation to the school year and a chance to hear Rabbi Marcus blow the shofar before the High Holy Days, were obviously moved by the soldier’s words.  They were glad to do a mitzvah.
Ilana Roth, a 9th grader at the Orange County High School for the Arts (OCHSA), said, “It’s nice to write cards to the people in the military, because they don’t get to do a lot during the holidays or see their families.”
Sabrina Cohen, a 7th grader at OCHSA, added, “It’s nice to give back to people defending our country.”
Aubrey Fleming, a 6th grader at Los Flores Middle School, concluded, “I like making soldiers happy and letting them know we care about them.  It makes me happy to know they’re happy.”
Visit www.chabadofmv.com.

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