By Spc. Cassandra MonroeApril 8, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Many Soldiers can agree that those who wear "U.S. Army" over their hearts share a camaraderie never before experienced in their lifetime. Whether it is battling through firefights with a buddy alongside or helping another Soldier in need of companionship, the bonds Soldiers make over deployments last forever.
For those who attended a Jewish Passover celebration, March 29, at the Freedom Rest on COB Speicher, their bonds ran deeper than the uniforms worn.
Soldiers from different forward operating bases across United States Division-North, to include Contingency Operating Site Marez, FOB Warhorse, and FOB Q-West as well as Contingency Operating Base Speicher, attended the Passover dinner to celebrate their faith and this important Jewish holiday.
"We\'re here celebrating Passover, which celebrates the Exodus of the Jews that were enslaved in Egypt, and it's been tradition for a long time, thousands of years," said Capt. Douglas Bransfield, a Staff Judge Advocate officer with Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "It's great that they could put something like this together."
With a yarmulke donned atop their heads, the Soldiers read from their Haggadahs, which is a Jewish religious text that sets the order of the Passover Seder, as the celebration began. The Soldiers participated in traditional ceremonial activities such as retelling the story of the Exodus and recounting all 10 plagues that were brought upon Egyptians, at which each member of the ceremony dabbed a drop of wine onto a napkin.
The group also took part in finding the Afikomen, in which the leader of the ceremony breaks a square Matzah in half, leaves one half in the middle of the table and hides the other half somewhere in the room for the someone to uncover.
When dinner was served, the service members piled heaps of the food onto their plates, many going back for more. As the Soldiers ate, many socialized with each other, discussing ways in which the Jewish culture varied from household to household and over past deployments.
"It's a big deal for morale, especially for Jewish Soldiers," said Jason Kocsis, a truck driver with 1083rd Transportation Company, Louisiana National Guard. "To be able to get together with other Soldiers of the Jewish faith and share what you normally share back at home with family, it gives you more of a taste of home and what we have to look forward to."
"The Army and these Soldiers are a part of our extended family during war-time," said Lt. Col. Mednick, who is in charge of all aviation operations in the United States Division-North area of operations, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "It's very important to not spend this holiday alone and I'm proud to provide that culture for these Soldiers."