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  • Dana Evan Kaplan

Veterans Day Shabbat Service this Friday with guest speaker Sy Lichtenfeld

We are having a Veterans Day Shabbat Service this Friday with guest speaker Sy Lichtenfeld.

Sy served almost three years in the U.S. Army during World War II in airborne and combat infantry units as a rifleman. He was captured during the Battle of the Bulge after his unit was surrounded for three days and had run out of food and ammunition. He was taken prisoner at the point of a bayonet and spent over five months as a Prisoner of War in Germany.

The Department pf Defense has awarded him the Combat Infantryman's Badge, The Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War Medal, World War II Battle of the Bulge Medal, The European Theatre of Operations Medal with three battle clusters, as well as many others for his years of service. After the war, he attended Purdue University and obtained a degree in engineering and operated successful businesses in Chicago and Miami.

He resided in Miami for 47 years with his wife, Natalie and their three children. In February 2011, Sy & Natalie relocated to Mobile to be near family. He has been very active in the American EX-Prisoners of War Organization having served as a Commander of three EX-POW Chapters and on the Board of Directors of the Florida Dept. of Ex-POWs. He was a Veterans Service Officer for many years helping other Vets in obtaining their benefits.

He is presently active in the South Alabama Veterans Council, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Alabama Chapter No.1 of the Rolling Thunder and various Veteran Service Organizations. In addition, he travels throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties educating school children and others about World War II. In April 2014, he was appointed by the Governor of the State of Alabama to serve as a member of the Alabama State Board of Veterans Affairs. The Library of Congress has accepted his book which he has written about his experiences in the Army as a Prisoner of War.

Andrew J. Yawn of the Montgomery Advertiser writes: About a week before Christmas in 1944, Seymour “Sy” Lichtenfeld was captured by German forces at the point of a bayonette during the Battle of the Bulge. Lichtenfeld, a Jewish American soldier, would spend the next five months at four different prison camps, a tour of terror that ended May 8, 1945, when Lichtenfeld was able to rejoin his American brethren. Germany surrendered the same day. “To this day, I like to think they surrendered when they heard I rejoined the American army,” Lichtenfeld said. It was the only moment of levity for Lichtenfeld as he recalled his experience as a German prisoner of war on the lawn of the Alabama State Capitol Saturday. Lichtenfeld was a guest of honor at Saturday’s POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony Saturday along with Roy McGinnis, a B-17 waist gunner who was a POW for 19 months at the Stalag 17 camp in Austria, also during World War II. Lichtenfeld was the keynote speaker for the event, and he used his time to describe the feelings of being held against his will in the dark German winter. “The first (feeling) is hunger, a hunger forced on you from not being able to eat solid foods for months on end. A hunger that will force you to eat anything available. The second is being cold, a cold that racks your body in uncontrollable shivering and causes your mind to become dull. Then fear, a nameless terror that takes control of your body and mind. Fear where you lose control of your body functions as bombs fall on you in a locked boxcar,” Lichtenfeld said. “The worst fear, of course, is of never again being free or seeing your loved ones.”

This is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans, those who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. The United States previously observed Armistice Day but we renamed the holiday Veterans Day in 1954.

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