By Andrew Bosworth
This past Friday, May 22nd, The Leffell School commemorated Memorial Day with a Memorial Day tekes, held remotely via Zoom. Memorial Day is a day to honor the brave soldiers who have died fighting for the United States.
As students entered the Zoom call, a slideshow of soldiers laying their peers to rest, along with members of the soldiers’ families mourning their losses, was shown. Patriotic music played in the background.
The tekes continued with the playing of Taps, readings of short pieces of past presidents’ speeches, and pictures of different soldiers’ graves, including that of the Unknown Soldier.
Next, Senior Rachel Amar and Junior Allison Kessler sang the National Anthem, followed by the introduction of Marine Captain Joe Kristol. Kristol served two tours, one in Afghanistan, and one in the Horn of Africa in Kuwait.
When he was younger, Kristol had gone on a month-long trip to Israel with BBYO. While there, he saw many Israeli students his age getting ready to join the Israeli army. So he decided that he wanted to join the military in the United States. In 2005, Kristol enlisted in the ROTC program at Harvard University.
Kristol chose to enter the Marines because of the mentorships. His ROTC training was given by a Marine with whom he ultimately served in Afghanistan. Kristol mentioned that while there were very few Jews in the Marines, his fellow soldiers were eager to “share in the [Jewish] holiday celebrations”. Kristol says that he “took a lot more crap for being a snobby Harvard kid than for being Jewish.”
While in Afghanistan, Kristol was stationed in Sangin, where two Marines in Kristol’s platoon fell. Of the two was Lance Corporal John Sparks, a machine gunner, who “always picked up everybody’s slack.” He was killed five days after his birthday, and a base was named after him. The other soldier, Lance Corporal Ceniceros, also a machine gunner, gave his life to save his fellow Marines and was awarded the Silver Star posthumously from Bill Clinton. According to Kristol, Ceniceros was so intent on helping his country, he did not even tell his parents of his second tour.
Kristol concluded by saying that the best way to honor those fallen is to look up one of their names and think of them throughout the day.
A slideshow was then presented of the military members of the Leffell Community, both those alive, such as Rabbi Harry Pell and Greg Mines, as well as those who have died.
The ceremony concluded with a clip on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and about how, even in these trying times, soldiers still guard it, continuing the 30,000-day ritual.
“Celebrate their lives,” Kristol says is the proper way to celebrate this commemorative day.