web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Memorable Visit To A Very Different Hospital


As a congregational rabbi, I often see people in hospitals and other health care facilities. While each building may look different, the actual differences are rather minute. It was my privilege recently to visit a hospital that is a definite exception to that rule.

Several weeks ago I traveled together with Larry Babitts to Washington to visit patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. With its patient population consisting mainly of wounded U.S. soldiers and a staff decked out in army-issue camouflage hospital scrubs and combat boots, visiting Walter Reed was an entirely new experience for me.

I wanted to visit Walter Reed with Larry in order to thank our brave soldiers for their service. I also wanted to let them know that American Jews truly appreciate their sacrifices in the war against terror.

Larry, a longtime friend of my synagogue, Kesher Israel Congregation of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who was wounded in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. In addition to being active in a number of veteran-related activities, Larry regularly travels from Harrisburg to Walter Reed to visit, comfort and lift the spirits of soldiers who have been wounded on the battlefield.

While driving to Washington, Larry explained his dedication to this unique act of chesed (kindness). While serving as an infantryman during the Korean War, Larry had his legs shattered by an enemy landmine that killed some of his fellow soldiers.

Realizing his group had ventured into a heavily mined area, Larry could only writhe in pain, thinking no one would risk his life to evacuate him. But one brave soldier was determined to get Larry off of that Korean hilltop. Though he vividly remembers the sound of the soldier’s voice, to this day Larry has absolutely no idea who the soldier was or even what he looked like.

Larry was eventually evacuated to the U.S. where he spent almost two years at Walter Reed recovering from his wounds. Unable to thank the soldier whose act of kindness saved his life, Larry reciprocates by visiting and sharing his story with a new generation of wounded soldiers. He does his best to encourage those whose experiences he can so clearly relate to.

We had a chance to visit with a few young soldiers and their families. The first patient we saw was a fellow Pennsylvanian who’d been wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. While all his limbs were thankfully intact, he had suffered a severe concussion and faced a long recovery. Both he and his family appreciated our visit. (I realized I’d just read about this soldier’s injury in that Saturday’s newspaper. I told his family how amazed I was that the army had transferred him to Walter Reed by Monday morning.)

The second soldier we saw was a young officer whose vehicle had been hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan. His wife at his bedside, he was recovering from having had one of his legs amputated below the knee. I was impressed by his positive attitude. He told us he had nothing but gratitude for the army’s efforts. He had been injured about a year and a half earlier; army surgeons had operated more than ten times in an effort to save his leg.

While we talked, he thanked a visiting doctor for the hospital’s efforts on his behalf. “No private health insurance would’ve paid for ten surgeries,” he joked.

I hope the wounded soldiers and their family members took comfort from my visit, but I clearly saw how much they appreciated Larry’s. In him they saw someone who understood their pain, anxieties and concerns – someone who spent two years recovering in Walter Reed and then went on to lead and enjoy a fulfilling life.

Obviously, encountering a caring human being with a shared set of experiences went a long way to provide those brave young men with a greater sense of hope, optimism, and comfort.

Visiting Walter Reed with Larry Babitts reminded me of a very important lesson. Many centuries ago our sages taught us that in the midst of a crisis, knowledge that others have dealt with a similar challenge can be a great source of comfort.

About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at rabbimales@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Memorable Visit To A Very Different Hospital”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arabs burn tires in Shuafat neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Arab Violence in Jerusalem Forces Police to Return Law and Order
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty


n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

More Articles from Rabbi Akiva Males
Statue of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon

The power of “positive campaigning;” Nothing quenches your soul’s thirst like Torah.

Males-031414

At the core of traditional Judaism is the belief that our world has a Creator. This Creator knows all that goes on in our world, and remains actively involved in all of its events – no matter how insignificant some of those events might seem.

In a short span of time our shul raised and distributed thousands of dollars for relief organizations.

In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.

Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.

“Rabbi, is there any religious requirement for Jewish men to wear mezuzahs around their necks?”

“Rabbi, if you yourself are clean-shaven, why does this inmate claim his Jewish religion prohibits him from using a razor on his face?”

We are all aware of the terrible divisions among Israel’s Jewish population. My friends and colleagues in Israel tell me they cannot remember a time in recent years where so much fragmentation existed. All this when the external threats facing Israel grow greater by the day.

No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-memorable-visit-to-a-very-different-hospital-2/2009/07/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: