This op-ed originally appeared in The Algemeiner.

American history is full of Jewish heroes — famous names like Albert Einstein, Sandy Koufax, and Stan Lee. But during Jewish American History Month, and on Memorial Day, I am most inspired by the many American Jews who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication and courage while serving in our country’s military.

People who exemplify patriotism. People, in other words, who remind me of my dad.

Bernard Deutch fought in the Battle of the Bulge, earning a Purple Heart while helping beat back a massive Nazi counterattack in the Ardennes Forest.

Like many veterans of World War II, he rarely talked about the details of his service. The one thing he did share, and made sure his children knew, was that we were all privileged to live in the United States — the country he almost died defending. A country where Jews were welcome.

And despite alarming spikes in antisemitism, the US remains the greatest safe haven the Jewish Diaspora has ever known.

And that’s why I believe so many American Jews are not only profoundly and gratefully patriotic, but are also driven to better our communities and this country for all its people.

Andrea Goldstein is one of those Jews. Her family came to America fleeing the Holocaust, and, according to Andrea, always praised the opportunity and security this country has afforded them. This gratitude led her to join the US Navy, where as Acting Director for Force Resiliency, she leads critical efforts in combating sexual assault and harassment, as well as suicide prevention and response.

“A big component of what drew me to military service is definitely the spirit of tikkun olam,” she said. “For me, the idea of putting on the cloth of the nation that welcomed my family as refugees was the best way to do that.”

Andrea also served on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs as the lead staffer for the Women Veterans Task Force, where she helped write more than 100 pieces of legislation that improve access to healthcare and benefits for female veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, sexual trauma survivors, and people living with PTSD.

Or take the example of Dave Warnock. His great-grandfather emigrated from Russia and enlisted in the US Army at age 16. Both of Warnock’s grandfathers served in World War II, and his father joined the Coast Guard.

Dave joined the Army in the wake of 9/11, and served two tours in Iraq. Throughout his career, he was one of the only Jews in his military companies.

“For a lot of people,” he said, “I was the only Jew they ever met.”

After his time in the military, Warnock’s commitment to service led to a career in law enforcement, where he found that many of the guiding principles in the Torah and Talmud — including fairness and accountability — overlap with what it meant to be a police officer.

As in the military, Warnock is often one of the few Jewish police officers in his department, a rewarding experience because of the awareness he can raise, and the connections he can make with fellow officers who are curious to learn more.

I also want to honor the many American Jews who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country — two of whom I had the honor of representing in the Florida Senate.

Pfc. Daniel J. Agami, from Coconut Creek, Florida, decided to enlist in the military after having been deeply affected by the September 11 attacks. He earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and an Army Commendation Medal, but was tragically killed in action in Baghdad in June 2007 at 25 years old. His mother Beth said of him, “He always wanted to be of service.”

Major Stuart A. Wolfer, a native of Coral Springs, Florida, was dedicated to his Jewish faith. A beloved father of three children, while deployed in Iraq, he volunteered with a newly formed local Boy Scout organization before being killed in action in Baghdad in April 2008 at the age of 36.

As a Member of Congress, I also continued the efforts of my predecessor, Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL), and worked with then-Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to properly recognize the service and sacrifice of Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz, who died heroically while protecting his fellow soldiers during the Korean War, and other Jewish soldiers who were not properly honored for their service due to prejudice.

These Jewish American heroes’ service, hard work, and compassion are emblematic of a tradition that has enriched the fabric of American society for generations. Alongside my dad, their example, and my Jewish values, inspire me to fight for America’s values, and I hope they inspire you too.

Please join me in honoring them and all the other Jews who dedicate their lives to the betterment of our Nation.

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