Of all the myriad of titles that my father, HaRav Yaakov ben Yitzchak Eliezer zt”l, successfully and valiantly achieved and earned in his lifetime, the ones that were most valued and cherished, and of which he was most proud, were “Dad” and “Zayde Jack.” His family always came first, above all else, and his deep love and devotion for my dear mother a”h, my sister, and me were a blessing and special gift from Hashem to us.

How is it possible to put into a few words a 21-year military career of dedication to solving our country and klal Yisrael – reaching out, protecting, caring, and saving thousands of Yiddishe neshamos, Jewish souls? My father was the link to Yiddishkeit for so many soldiers who clung to him, turned to him, and depended on him spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Rabbi Jack, as he was fondly called, was Hashem’s shaliach, and his life was devoted and immersed in doing Hashem’s work He accomplished great feats, rose above many challenging life situations, and did so much for so many.

By example, my father taught selflessness and caring for others before him. He will always be remembered for his beautiful, radiant smile and his endearing way of greeting every human being with seiver panim yafos.

He was a career military chaplain who succeeded in achieving the high and distinguished rank of Colonel. He was the highest-ranking Jewish chaplain in the United States Army in his time. My father taught us the power of reaching out to others and having emunah in Hashem. He did abundant kiruv work in the Army, and prevented much intermarriage from taking place. His chaplain’s office, whether in the United States, in the many places that he was stationed, or in Europe, was a safe haven for soldiers who were alone and away from their families and loved ones. He gave chizuk and guidance, held them, comforted them, and consoled them. Dad and Mom’s home was a home with an open door and open hems. I remember many visits from soldiers, at all hours of the day and in the evenings. The young Jewish soldiers were always guests at our Shabbos table. The warmth in my parents’ home was palpable. With the immense, dedicated, and unified efforts of both of our parents, whether in the States or in Europe, my sister and I were privileged and blessed to be raised in a home that was filled with Torah and chesed.

My father was a man of the world, yet he was firmly steeped in Torah values. He could give divrei Torah on any subject. Dad had great emunah and was always confident that Yad Hashem, the hand of G-d, protected him always. This was especially evident during his year in Vietnam. He told us of a bunk bed that he slept in, that was in a hut surrounded by other soldiers’ huts. A grenade and artillery attack took place in their camp. The attack leveled all the huts that surrounded my father’s hut, and it killed and injured many of the soldiers in these huts. Even the soldier who was sleeping in the lower bunk of the same bed as my father’s was injured. Dad was sleeping on the top bunk and was untouched by any shrapnel. He considered this a true miracle and only one of the many signs that he had the shield of Hashem with him at all times. Although there was always constant danger in the battlefield, Dad put up the first sukkah in Vietnam for the young Jewish soldiers.

To my father, every Jewish neshamah was sacred. While flying in a helicopter over the battlefield area, my father heard over the radio that there was a wounded soldier who had to be left because it was too dangerous to go down on the ground to get him. Dad called in to his commander and asked the name of the wounded soldier. They would not give the name, as this was against protocol, so he pulled some strings and some “rank” and called another source, and he found out that the soldier had a Jewish name. He instructed the helicopter pilot to turn back and go down to pick up the wounded soldier. The pilot tried to convince my father not to go down into this dangerous territory, but my father insisted and was able to bring this soldier into the helicopter and take him to safety. He would never leave a Jewish soldier to die, even if it meant risking his own life to save him. My father always joked that, on that day, he got a slight “demotion” for not listening to protocol and the commander, but that he knows for sure that he got a “promotion” in Shamayim and that’s all that really matters.

My father was awarded many medals and was highly decorated over his 21-year career for his valiant and dedicated service to our country. He received two Legion of Merit awards for his meritorious conduct in the “performance of outstanding services.” It is rare for this award to be earned at all in an officer’s career, but my father received the award twice.

When my sister and I were in our mid-teens, my father commuted to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he was stationed at that time. He was the Chief Jewish Chaplain there. My mother stayed with us in New York so that my sister and I could continue attending our yeshivah high school. After my father completed his years in Fort Dix, the government offered him to go to Europe for another three-year tour. They told him that as soon as he would go overseas, he would be promoted to General. This would have given him the honor of being the first Jewish chaplain general in the history of the United States Army. Although this would be very tempting to most, my father declined the offer without any hesitation. He knew that uprooting his family at this juncture would be detrimental for us, and we would not have the “Yiddishe” schooling and socialization that he knew was so important for his teenage daughters. My father never looked for any honor or kavod. His family came first. He was an anav, a humble man, and a true tzadik.

Another clear example of Dad’s emunah in Hashem was when he was being wheeled into the operating room for major surgery a number of years before his passing. I was with him as they were about to wheel him into the operating room. The nurse took his blood pressure, and it was a perfect 120/80. She was shocked, as most patients about to undergo such a procedure are agitated and very nervous. They often have such elevated blood pressure levels that sometimes it is necessary to cancel surgery. When the nurse asked my father how he was able to be so calm, his response to her was simply, “I have nothing to worry about; G-d is watching over me, He is with me, taking care of me, and He will protect me.” Emunah and bitachon, always.

My father was a chazan, and he was blessed with a beautiful voice. His davening on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur moved the k’hilah to tears. My mother and he met while singing in choir together at the Young Israel of Bushwick, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was the start of a life of “harmony” and love, a fabulous journey, which separated them only in her death. They were two birds that flocked together, two hearts that beat as one. Our home was always filled with song, love, laughter, comfort, joy, and warmth.

My father never complained and never wanted to be a burden on anyone. He was the supreme giver – never a taker. The aide who helped with Dad for the last couple of years of his life told us at his funeral that Dad was a “prince.” She said it was such an honor and a privilege to work for such a prince of a man, a perfect gentleman with a regal presence. My mother and father have rejoined again, and this is a great n’chamah to us all. Dad was looking forward to seeing Mom again. His life felt empty for the last two years without her. A perfect analogy was spoken about them during the shiv’ah. One of the grandchildren spoke about picturing Bubby Malley standing under the chupah and Zayde Jack slowly walking down the aisle to greet her. The joy, excitement, and euphoria that they are feeling are as strong, if not stronger, than those felt by a chasan and kallah on their wedding day.

We are certain that together they will watch over us and over klal Yisrael, just as they did in life, and send r’fuos, y’shuos, and brachos to us all.

My father is deeply missed. He was a pillar of strength, a beacon of light.

Dad, you are very much loved, you are our hero, and we salute you.

Y’hi zichro baruch.

By Esther Mochan, KGH