Below are the words of UK Col. (ret) Richard Kemp who was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan after attending the funeral of a young Israeli soldier:
My Dear Friends,
It was my honour and privilege this evening at Modiin to be present at the funeral of Lieutenant Nathan Cohen of the IDF Armoured Corps, a 23-year-old platoon commander who was Killed in Action leading his men in Gaza night.
Although I have attended too many funerals of British soldiers, I found this a uniquely beautiful, moving and humbling occasion. As well as Nathan’s family, very large crowds, both civilian and military, came to Modiin Cemetery to pray, to grieve and to pay their respects to him.
I want to briefly reflect on the sacrifices made by the valiant Israeli soldiers, like Nathan, who have fallen fighting to defend their families, their friends and their country, and those who will yet fall in this great cause. These young men have made a greater contribution to their country than it is possible for any of the rest of us to make. Even the most inspiring leader, the finest scholarly mind, the greatest captain of industry, the most munificent benefactor.
By the path of duty they have given up their own life that others might live in safety. They have made the Ultimate Sacrifice. All that they had they gave. All that they might have had. All that they had ever been. All that they might ever have become.
They have forfeited every hope and every dream. Every laugh and every tear. Every tender moment with the girl they married or the girl they might have married. Every smile from a beloved son or daughter, every fatherly cuddle. Every beer enjoyed with friends, every game of football played and watched. Every song, every dance, every joyful holiday. The exhilaration of every achievement, the frustration of every setback, the sorrow of every failure.
They have been taken forever. And they will not return. Not to their mothers or fathers, their brothers or sisters, their wives or girlfriends, their sons or daughters, their friends or their comrades-in-arms. Perpetually, they have given up the fellowship of every human being they ever knew or were yet to meet.
Their departure is of course a matter of ineffable sorrow. It is also a matter of the most sublime pride. At the moment of death, every one of this country’s Great Fallen has ascended to a position of indisputable superiority over us all. The names and the deeds of Israel’s Glorious Dead must and will live for evermore.
Colonel Richard Justin Kemp CBE is a retired British Army officer who served from 1977 to 2006. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, an infantry battalion Commanding Officer, worked for the Joint Intelligence Committee and COBR and completed 14 operational tours of duty around the globe.