Tribute to Living Legends

By Deborah Vietor

Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., (JWV) have given tremendous support over the years to the United States military. Founded in 1896, the group was created by a group of 63 Jewish veterans from the Civil War following a series of anti-Semitic comments about the lack of Jewish service. Since then, the oldest Veterans organization in America, JWV has been working hard to be the voice of American Jewry in the veteran community.

In 1958, the Jewish War Veterans were instrumental in establishing the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH), located in Washington D.C. Founded under the auspices of the JWV of the USA, NMAJMH documents and preserves the contributions of Jewish Americans to the peace and freedom of the U.S., educates the public concerning the courage, heroism and sacrifices made by Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, and work to combat anti-Semitism.

Records show that 250,000 Jews served in World War I and 550,000 Jews served in World War II. Jewish American Veterans have served in numbers greater than their proportion in the general population up to the Vietnam War. Now there are 250 VFW posts throughout the United States with approximately 7,500 active members.

On October 15th, the “Feed Our Heroes Program” was sponsored by the JWV, honoring active duty military arriving at the San Diego Airport, at the USO on their way to their next assignment. Food was served to more than 385 military members, including U.S. Marines and other branches of the military.

Allen Miliefsky, a Jewish career veteran, proudly served in the United States Air Force for 22 years. He was honored with the San Diego County Veteran of the Year award in 2009 for his work with veterans and the civilian community. Born in Worcester, Mass., Miliefsky became a Civil Air Patrol Cadet at 15, enlisted in the Massachusetts Air National Guard at 17, transferred to the Air Force Reserve and entered active duty in the U.S. Air Force as an Airman 3rd Class in 1958. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1978.

Miliefsky knew from the time he was eight-years-old, building model airplanes, that he wanted to be in the Air Force flying military aircraft. He exceeded his childhood dream, and flew 286 combat missions in Vietnam. During the Tet Offensive in 1968. As a Captain, he served as the Battlefield Commander on AC-47 Gunships.

While flying these missions, not one American outpost or Fire Support Base under his responsibility, though under attack, was overrun by the enemy, including a Special Forces Camp near Da Nang Air Force Air Base. He received The Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission, describing it as one of the most rewarding experiences while serving in the Air Force, saving 149 ground soldiers.

Miliefsky received 11 Air Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” for Valor, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Vietnam Service Medal with 9 bronze battle/campaign stars.

In 1977, Miliefsky received an assignment as the Air Advisor to the Shah of Iran. He retired in 1978, becoming Director of Veteran Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He then moved to San Diego, assuming the position of Transition Service Officer for the Disabled American Veterans, briefing thousands of servicemen on their rights as veterans. He is a member of many military organizations and serves as a valuable volunteer.

“While [I was] in service, there were two Jewish officers who gave me a personal recommendation to go to Officers and Pilot Training. We met for all the Jewish holidays and I met many other Jewish officers over the years,” Miliefsky recalled.

Today, he assists the USMC by attending Friday evening shabbat religious services with the Jewish Marine Recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, as he has done since October 2001.

“If you don’t know what to do with your life at the end of high school, you will know after joining the military for four years,” Miliefsky said. “Know you will have a college degree paid for through the military. I have most enjoyed the camaraderie built with many years of friendships in the Air Force. There is nothing like the military.”

Sheldon Kleiman M.D., served as a Battalion surgeon with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment advancing to Regimental Surgeon, 1st Marine Division. He completed the Vietnam assignment at the 1st Medical Battalion Hospital in Da Nang City. Prior to and after serving in Vietnam, he completed his military service at Great Lakes Naval Hospital north of Chicago.

Born and raised in Chicago, Dr. Kleiman attended undergraduate and the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois. Following medical school, he received internship training at USC-Los Angeles County General Hospital. During the Vietnam War (1965-1975), physicians were drafted to meet the needs of the U.S. military. Originally assigned to the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. which provides medical care to the marines, Dr. Kleiman was transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps. After basic training he was ordered to Vietnam and assigned to the First Marine Division.

Dr. Kleiman was honored with the Bronze Star Medal, combat “V” for Valor, for his medical service with the 1st Marine Division and a Certificate of Commendation for medical care administered during the second TET offensive, 1969.

“As a physician and a Jew, it was my honor to serve our country and the United States Marine Corps,” Klienman said. “As a physician, I did my best as did my fellow doctors to save as many lives as we could under combat conditions.”

“For me as a Jew, I believe war brought me closer to G-d. When in a synagogue, I reflect on my war time experiences and say Kaddish for all who lost their lives in Vietnam, both Jews and non-Jews. I was allowed to fly by helicopter to Da Nang City to celebrate Passover with fellow Jews from all branches of the military. This reminds us that even during times of war and chaos, we are all one as Jews and can can celebrate together,” Klienman added.

While serving under combat conditions, Klienman recalled that his unit was united by a Jewish Chaplain, a Rabbi who was attached to the 101st Airborne Division. As a visiting Chaplain, he brought a siddur, and “as he read, he guided us as we all prayed together, emphasizing the sacred value of human life.”

If you are a Jewish War Veteran and wish to join the San Diego Post please call Allen Miliefsky at (619) 737-6910 or Sheldon Kleiman at (858) 452-5691. For those interested in donating to the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., please send donations to P.O. Box 81171, San Diego, Ca 92168-1171.

 

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