I spent last weekend in Salt Lake City where my Army unit, the 807th Medical Command, has its headquarters. One of the things that I enjoy about the military is its respect for ritual, which parallels Jewish tradition. Last weekend was filled with festivities in honor of the change of command, as our commanding general, MG Craig Bugno, was retiring, and our incoming commanding general, BG-P Daniel Dire, assumed responsibility for the 11,000+ Soldiers and 110 units of the 807th.
My favorite part of the change of command ceremony is the passing of the unit’s flag to the new commander. It reminds me of how we hand the Torah down through the generations to our Bnai Mitzvah. We never let go of the Torah, it never leaves the hands of someone who retains responsibility for the scroll, and, symbolically, for the tradition that it represents.
So it is with the unit’s colors. Let me read you a description of this ritual from the script for the change of command ceremony.
“Key to the change of command is the passing of the Unit’s Colors. These Colors represent not only the Heritage and History of the unit, but also the unity and loyalty of its soldiers. The colors are the commander’s symbol of authority, representing his responsibilities to the organization. Wherever the commander is…. There also are the colors. The custodian of the colors is the Sergeant Major, as the Senior enlisted soldier in the unit, and principle advisor to the commander.
The ceremony begins as Command Sergeant Major Breck passes the colors to MG Bugno for the last time. MG Bugno passes the colors to MG Conby, thereby relinquishing his responsibilities and authority. MG Conby passes the colors to BG Dire, charging the new commander with the same responsibility and authority.
By authority of Army Regulation 600-20, the undersigned assumes command of the 807th Medical Command, Deployment Support, BG Daniel J. Dire Commanding.
It is a very stirring moment to witness that transfer of responsibility and how critical it is that at no moment are the colors unsupported. I’ve asked 4 volunteers to provide a demonstration of what this looks like. Since we don’t have an actual guidon here, the flag will be represented by this rain stick. Normally the script that I just read would be read as the flag is passed from hand to hand.
When something is sacred and meaningful to us, we want to protect it and guard it, validating that, from generation to generation, we are placing it into the hands of someone who will honor it as we do. I never sensed this more profoundly than when my granddaughter, Helena Ruth, Chayah Rut, was born this week. As I have watched over my children from the moment of their births, it is a special, special joy to watch my daughter and her husband fall in love with their new child.
Moses B. Sachs said, “every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility entrusted to our care to be carefully nurtured as our most cherished possession.” When I took Jessie to her very first medical appointment, I asked her how she was feeling. Her answer was, “worried.” My reply- welcome to the rest of your life! Our worry and concern is in direct proportion to our love and caring. Elizabeth Stone, I think, said it best, “The decision to have a child is the decision to have your heart walking around outside your body.” It is a comfort and a joy to see my daughter and son-in-law transform into loving parents, who would do anything to protect their child. We place our precious family traditions and our precious Jewish traditions into the hands of the next generation, praying that our children will treasure them as we do.
“Bubbe,” a colleague wrote to me, playing on my military background, “is the best and highest rank of all.” If you will please indulge me, I’d like to conclude with a personal prayer for my family-
Compassionate God who delights in life, with my heart overflowing I rejoice with my children as, their daughter is welcomed into our family and into our community. I sense the thread of continuity of the generations which this moment signifies and give thanks for Your sustaining me that I might rejoice in the birth and growth of my granddaughter. May it be Your will to bless her and her parents with health, happiness and contentment. May good deeds abound in their home; may they always be linked to each other and to our family in an unbreakable bond of love. May I merit to share many moments of joy and gladness with my children and granddaughter. Bless all of us together with the light of Your presence.- Amen