Throughout my childhood in Greater New Haven, my Jewish identity was integrally woven into the fabric of my life. When I spent a gap year in Israel, my Jewish identity became linked with my emerging “Israeli” identity, and all of these experiences ignited my desire to return and give back. I patiently waited until I graduated from college, and then made aliyah as a “lone soldier” through Garin Tzabar. I felt this would be the most effective way to give back to Israel, to learn the language and to integrate into Israeli society. Furthermore, after a year, I wanted to advance in my service, and was accepted into the officer’s training program.
Nobody tells you however, when you draft, that many of the jobs you do feel very disconnected from these goals - kitchen duty, long hours of guard duty in remote far-flung places, holidays spent on an army base, tedium, and uncooperative soldiers who report to you, but to name a few.
But then COVID-19 hit. As an officer, I have been responsible for helping to coordinate the army response to the pandemic. This has included long hours planning volunteer projects, such as soldiers delivering supplies to nursing homes, seeing that people who are isolated and alone have food, ensuring that the rules of social distancing are enforced, and making sure that soldiers who have sometimes been on base without break for 40 days or more are coping.
As stressful as COVID-19 has been, the leadership and organizational training I received from my service as an instructor and officer have prepared me for this task. Through this experience, I've gained a unique opportunity to connect with soldiers and civilians alike, to hear their stories, and work together to safeguard the nation and its people. Though the job is not yet done, I am grateful to be taking part in combating this global crisis and supporting this nation that I have come to call home.
Sasha Weitzman, the daughter of Marc and Carol Weitzman of Woodbridge, is a First Lieutenant and Officer of Instruction and Operations for Training Command.