We once again find ourselves on Remembrance Day standing proud with lumps in our throats as we pay respects to loved ones who fell in battle for the State of Israel. The mournful songs that have become the backdrop of this solemn day are again played at the official ceremonies and fill special radio broadcasts. The words of the poet Zelda’s (Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky) touching Every Man Has a Name reminds each and every one of us of a particular loved one or close friend who left this world before their time, never to return.
This feeling that most Israelis experience only once per calendar cycle is the destiny of our beloved bereaved families throughout the year, day in, day out.
Living among us today are thousands of people who have been named for a father, an uncle or another hero of Israel they will never meet. When I was born, I was honored to be named in memory of one of these thousands of heroes and therefore became part of a living legacy that walks among us to remind our society of those who fell defending our country.
I was named in memory of Danny Vardon, my father’s commander in the Negev reconnaissance unit.
Throughout my childhood I tried to learn as much as I could about this man, who to me was legendary.
Danny Vardon was born on Kibbutz Givat Brenner and loved our land deeply. During his IDF service he received two citations for valor when he attempted to rescue a comrade under heavy sniper fire while trapped in a narrow alleyway in El Arish during the final hours of the Six Day War. This heroic act was Danny’s last.
Despite the risk to his own life he did all within his power to save his injured solider. The Egyptian sniper caught him in his crosshairs and ended his young life.
Vardon’s sudden death left behind his shocked soldiers, a widow and two young children. At that moment, in the alley of El Arish, my father vowed to name one of his children in memory of his beloved commander.
Several years later, during the Eretz Hamirdafim operation of the War of Attrition in the Jordan Valley two IDF soldiers, Gadi Menleh and Arik Regev, were killed in a firefight with terrorists.
My father, Avi Yosef Danon, was severely wounded in the head. After many years battling the medical effects of his wounds he eventually succumbed. When my wife gave birth to our firstborn we named him Aviad Yosef in memory of the grandfather he would never meet.
It was clear to us that our son would one day have to set out on the same journey I did as a young man. He too wants to know everything possible about the man he is named after, to touch every faded photograph of the hero who fell in defense of his country, and to gather every bit of information about that fateful last battle in which his grandfather fought.
On Remembrance Day we all stand at attention with the names of the fallen on our lips, steadfast as ever to defend our homeland as the fallen so valiantly did. On this day it as if we were all named for the fallen warriors of Israel’s battles. Today we are all one bereaved family of Israel.
“Every man has a name Given him by God And given by his father and his mother”
The author is deputy defense minister of the State of Israel.