Maj. Shirly Moas probably has one of the toughest jobs in the army. She is responsible for establishing and maintaining close contact with families whose loved ones were killed in action while serving in the 460th Armored Brigade.

The brigade has lost 295 soldiers since the War of Independence in 1948 and Moas, 28, from Givatayim is in touch with 625 of their relatives.

The brigade’s most recent casualty was 18-year-old Cpl. Yosef Partuk, who was killed by a Gazan mortar shell in southern Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense in November.

“I try to reach out to everyone. Especially during holidays, which are difficult times for the families,” Moas said on Sunday. “I offer them vacations and summer camps for the children and the possibility to hold their own memorial ceremonies. My way to establish close contact is to sit one-on-one with relatives and talk about the difficult issues. I visit regularly and listen.”

After a family is notified of the death of a loved one by their local city officer, an IDF representative to the civilian population, Moas makes contact before the funeral.

“I act as a bridge between the family and the [Defense Ministry]. Then I remain by their side for the bereavement process,” she said.

Contact begins at that point and then continues indefinitely, Moas added.

“Every family is different.

You don’t know who you’re going to meet,” she said. “I very much believe in what I do. I’m coming from a very caring place, to help them mourn with as much strength and love as possible.

“At first, I focus on being there, not doing something.

I try to learn the family dynamics, and figure out where I can help. It’s vital to listen to the situation. And to be the element that represents the army. To give them the feeling that they’re not alone,” Moas said.

The bond between her and bereaved families often grows deeper, Moas added.

“They become part of your heart. You’re supposed to remain immune, but you can’t really be immune.”

In the year after a soldier’s death, Moas meets with bereaved families once a month. Afterward, they meet every few months, depending on the circumstances.

“In the first year, I try to help them understand that they’ve entered into a new kind of life without choosing to do so. Until now their life was normal. From that moment, they are without their loved one,” she said.

Moas is available around the clock.

“I’m always on standby.

This is something that is always with me,” she said.

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