Today is a day to honor those who have passed who served our country . . . those that fought for the United States, in uniform, risking their lives. We mourn those who tragically died in battle. We mourn those who miraculously survived and were able to live out their lives. I am honored to count my grandfathers, Leo Rochkind and Norbert Reinstein, amongst the latter group: both served our country in uniform as a part of America’s Greatest Generation. Both survived the war. Both lived long lives. Into their nineties. Both have now passed away.
When I was growing up, we Jewish boys were given “Bar Mitzvah” rings upon completing our Bar Mitzvah. Usually the rings bore our initials. Many think that the ring on my finger that bears my initials, “NR”, is from my Bar Mitzvah. When asked if it is, I politely smile and proudly explain that its my grandfather’s ring . . . “NR” — Norbert Reinstein. I wear it proudly. On this day, Memorial Day, it takes on added meaning. He wasn’t just my grandfather, he was a hero in uniform. I am remembering him with both sadness and pride.
My other grandfather, Leo Rochkind, was in the Navy. The oldest man on his ship. Old man, they used to call him. Old Man . . . hmmm. He was so young then. He was a hero in a different way in my life . . . in many ways, he and my Bubie (yiddish for grandmother) saved my life when I was growing up. He was my friend, my Grandpa Leo . . . he took pride in me when it didn’t seem like anyone did. After he passed away, our family had to clean out his apartment. Mementos, etc., were taken. I only wanted one thing — I wear it around my neck everyday. His dogtag. Close to my heart . . .
I mourn both of my grandfathers today. I wear reminders of not just their service to their country but their impact on my life. A ring. A dogtag. A grandson remembering his grandfathers.
In Memoriam. Leo Rochkind. Norbert Reinstein. May they rest in peace. Baruch Hashem.