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Taps for Private Jason Daniel Hasenauer/Taps for Afghanistan

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

At Kabbalat Shabbat we reflect on the week that is drawing to a close.  My week has been consumed by images of Afghanistan, where I was privileged to spend Chanukkah on two separate tours, in Kandahar, Bagram, and an obscure Forward Operating Base on the border of Pakistan.

I think about singing, laughing, and telling stories with Soldiers for hour upon end, and disseminating Chanukkah cards made by our own Temple Chai Religious School students.  I recall SGT Secord saying, “I didn’t realize how much I was longing to connect with my people.”

When I first received the invitation to make this journey, Jessie was in her first year at Kenyon College.  Before I said yes, I called her to ask how she would feel if I was not there for her winter break.  Her reply?  “They need you more than I do.”  The answer of every military family, who sacrifice time with their loved ones in service of the United States of America.

I’m thinking about the naïve vision of bringing the blessings of democracy and freedom to the people of Afghanistan.   Chanukkah- the celebration of freedom of religious expression.  What could have been a more meaningful time to make this journey?  We even called in “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

I ‘m thinking about sitting in a C-130 at the Kabul airport, my only care- when the heck would Sen. John Kerry and HIS entourage show up so that we could finally take off.  No one so desperate that they were chasing after the plane, risking their lives to be on board.

Blood and treasure.  Blood and treasure.  Blood and treasure.  I think that every veteran of Afghanistan is nurturing a broken heart heart at this moment, wondering, “For what?”  I am grateful to my colleague, Rabbi Irv Elson, who shared these words, written by Jen Sarno of the Semper Fi Fund-  “To all my OEF friends- please know that your service in Afghanistan over the past 20 years is invaluable. Your service to the freedoms of the Afghanistan people and to our own Countrymen is valuable beyond estimation. Your service is not defined by policy but is a representation of your heart and soul – protecting those that cannot protect themselves.

Please know your service was valuable.


Oy.  And I’m thinking about the women, the girls.  What is to become of their hopes and dreams?  The right to an education?  To be proud of their bodies and wear what they choose?  To make their own decisions about whether to marry and to fall in love with whomever they choose?  I fear for their future.

Finally, I am haunted by the death of Private Jason Hasenaur, whose memorial ceremony I attended in Kandahar.  One of his friends talked about how they used to play rock, paper scissors in the DFAC to see who had to get up and get the next round of soda.  Another brutal reminder of the youth of these Soldiers.

There are many military traditions which are so moving.   After the prayers, speakers and scriptural readings, the “Last Roll Call”.  From the rear of the sanctuary, the First Sergeant calls the name of a few soldiers, and they respond, “Here, First Sergeant”.  SGT Smith? “Here, First Sergeant.”  LT Jones?  “Here, First Sergeant.”  Like that.

Then they call the name of the soldier to whom we pay tribute.  “Private Hasenauer”.  Silence.  “Private Jason Hasenauer”.  Silence.  “Private Jason Daniel Hasenauer.”  Silence.  A 21 gun salute and taps.  It was not easy to keep a stiff upper lip.  It is barely manageable even as I am writing about it.  After this, file by the front and render a final salute to the display which includes his boots, his helmet, his dog tags and his weapon.  The weapon stands up in the boots, the dog tags hang off of that, and the helmet, (or in this case, his red beret, as he was in special forces), sits on top of the weapon.

It feels like TAPS for Afghanistan.  (Taps is played by Gabriel Kovach)

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