Dear Next Generation: An Incident During Basic Training

By Dear Next Generation
Dear Next Generation
Dear Next Generation
July 27, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

As a subscriber to The Epoch Times, I read with interest your published letters from readers offering their advice or experiences to the younger generation. It brought back an incident that I was involved in during basic training, July 1966, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, that may be of interest to your readers.

With the Vietnam War raging, I put myself in a position to get drafted by dropping out of college in order to save my country against the spread of communism throughout Southeast Asia. Playing cards over a blanket-covered footlocker wearing just my skivvies and my dog tags, I noticed a fellow recruit staring at my dog tags. At that time the religion of the soldier was stamped into the dog tag along with the name, serial number, and blood type. Jewish was stamped on my dog tags.

When I asked him what he was staring at he said: “Are you a Jew?” At that moment one thought raced through my brain: “Great, my second week in basic training and now I have a problem because I was Jewish.” I told him I was indeed a Jew and why are you so surprised? He then told me that his father told him that “all Jews had horns on their heads and a hooked nose.” It was at that moment that I knew, regardless of the results, I needed to correct this misconception regarding our race and with some trepidation but with resolve I told him, “Your daddy was wrong. You are looking at a Jew and I do not have horns on my head or a hooked nose.”

It was obvious to all that sat around that footlocker that this poor lost soul who was continuing to stare at my face was conflicted over what his daddy told him. I could see the confusion on his face as I knew he was thinking that if what his daddy told him about Jews was wrong, then what other things did his daddy tell him that were also wrong?

I told him that we are all equal under God and that to find ourselves here at Ford Leonard Wood, taking up the banner to serve our country by agreeing to stand a post to defeat communism truly makes us all brothers.

I don’t know if this man was sent to Vietnam or if, God forbid, his name is written on the wall in Washington, but I do know that at that moment in time there was one individual that I can attest to who was no longer an ignorant bigot but my brother.

Steve Lurie, Illinois


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