We cannot do enough for our military personnel who protect our lives and are ready to sacrifice their lives so we live safe. This is a story of how ordinary people make a real difference.
There is one program, showing on Saturday and Sunday, that, if possible, I will never miss and it is the Mike Huckabee on Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/huckabee/index.html.
I like Huckabee because he is bright, rational, logical, talks truth, funny, “politically correct” and has deep affinity for our Judeo-Christian culture and the commonality the United States and Israel hold. I learn a great deal from each of Huckabee, a former presidential candidate, program’s segment. And this is where I learned about Judy Isaacson Schaffer, an advertising salesperson, married and a mother of two, the founder and president of the organization Heroes To Heroes. http://heroestoheroes.org/
Thankfully, we live in the cyber era, which allowed me to locate Judy and share with the readers the story of her organization that she founded in December 2009, a story that should move you like it has moved me.
It all began with Judy’s father, Irving Isaacson, a heating, ventilation and air-condition engineer who was a WWII veteran. She grew up in a very patriotic home, with the American flag in the front yard, and was raised to believe that the United States is the best country on earth. After her father’s passing, in 2001, Judy discovered that her father volunteered to help Jewish war veterans. This new discovery gave her food for thought. In 2009, when Judy was visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Washington D.C., and when speaking with veterans and their family members, she realized that there is so much pain that goes along with serving our country that requires buckets of healing. The doer she is Judy knew, there and there, that she wanted to do something. If her father helped veterans she could follow in his footsteps.
Few weeks after her visit to Walter Reed hospital Judy was traveling to Israel to visit her son, who was on a one year study program in Jerusalem. On the plane she set next to a young Israeli man who, after his military service, took off on a trip to South American to “refresh” before entering civilian’s life. Judy asked the young man what Israel does for her soldiers, especially the wounded ones. He told her how Israel takes care of her veterans and how Israelis help one another because Israel is one army nation. Because in Israel everyone has to serve in the military and then remains in reserve service for years to come. The young man summarized his answer by referring Judy to the organization for the wounded soldiers and Beit Halochem, meaning the Home of the Fighter, in Israel.
http://www.inz.org.il/index1.asp?view_date=&cat=54 / http://bh-tla.inz.org.il/index1.asp?view_date=&cat=68
Judy was wowed; what if American veterans care to come to Israel and see the country and meet with some of their equal Israelis? She called Beit Halochem, spoke with Ora Seidner and told her what she had in mind and Seidner’s reply was, any American soldier is welcome here in Beit Halochem; our home is theirs. The possible support Judy was foreseeing receiving from Israel was promising. So she decided, why not!
A year and a half later the first group of American veterans, some of them disabled soldiers, traveled to Israel for a life changing experience. The program, now recognized to be spiritual, healing, religious and connecting to God, to each other and to Israel, has brought strangers from across the oceans to meet and become friends. It has proved that American veterans love to be in the company of Israelis.
Each group consists of ten American veterans and they are joined in Israel by five Israeli veterans who stay with the group for the entire ten days program. The program, a combination of spiritual, physical, social and emotional, starts in Jerusalem in a visit to the 9/11 Memorial; then a visit to the Western Wall, Christian sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and even meeting with government officials and some veterans got to meet with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The group travels the country, goes sailing and biking and meets veterans form organizations such as Achim l’Achaim, meaning brothers for brothers. http://achimlachaim.org/.
At the end of each day of the trip, the group meets to talk about the experiences of the day and what they have learned that can help them to get stronger and move on a positive note to a better future.
Alumni select and put together the next group; the funds to send a group of veterans to Israel – $7,500 per one person – come from private, tax deductible donations, and since 2010 Heroes To heroes is a 501(c)3 organization.
Right now the foundation can afford to send one group of ten veterans each year, but the need in the USA demands to send at least ten groups a year. So there is much work ahead.
It is now evidencing that the Heroes to Heroes program is a life changing experience for American veterans.
See the video introducing Heroes to Heroes – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhEgJKwhfk8#t=13
The participants return to the United States having new brothers and sisters; they remain connected with their Israeli counterparts, whom they call ‘brothers’ and most of them would like to return to Israel on a second trip, even live there for a while. Some alumni have expressed their wish to send their sons to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Our veterans are among the most vulnerable members of society. It is our duty to take care of them and find ways to integrate them back into society as not all of them return from service they way they were when they left for their mission.
A huge thanks from the American people to Israel for always opening arms and making America’s veterans at home while in the Holy Land. And we, Americans, will do all that we can to show our veterans our gratitude for their service, one of which is to send them to Israel for a life changing and healing program. And to Israel we give our utmost gratitude for helping American veterans to heal. And to Judy I. Schaffer and Heroes To Heroes our appreciation for making it all possible.