Remembering Our Fallen

13 Jews Who Died Fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq

Fallen Comrades: Service members salute James Malachowski, who was killed March 20, 2011, by an improvised explosive device in Marjah, Afghanistan. He was 25.
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Fallen Comrades: Service members salute James Malachowski, who was killed March 20, 2011, by an improvised explosive device in Marjah, Afghanistan. He was 25.

By Maia Efrem, Blair Thornburgh, Andrea Palatnik and Seth Berkman

Published September 09, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
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Pfc. Michael K. Oremus

Killed on Yom Kippur

A bright-eyed and happy boy who always smiled, Michael Oremus loved soccer and played the sport for most of his life. A “bonus baby” with two brothers much older than he, Oremus was an average student. When he was 10 years old, his father died from stomach cancer, and Michael had a hard time adjusting. But he found his outlet in sports. He was outgoing, and loved younger children so much that in high school he volunteered as a camp counselor and coached soccer in his hometown of Highland, N.Y.

Oremus attended Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for six months before realizing that school was not for him, his mother said. His family was taken aback and tried to discourage him from going into the service, but Oremus insisted that he was making the right decision. Hoping that military experience would lead to a career as a state trooper, he enlisted in February 2005 and left for boot camp.

Oremus celebrated the Jewish holidays, attended Hebrew school and became a bar mitzvah at the Jewish Congregation of New Paltz Kehillat Ahavat Achim, a Reconstructionist synagogue his family belonged to at the time. When his mother, Maddy Oremus-Palmese, received her son’s belongings after his death, she was surprised to find a copy of the Torah, a yarmulke and the Chai necklace she had given him. “Maybe he needed something to feel good about,” she told the Forward.

Oremus was stationed in Korea for a little more than a year before he volunteered to deploy to Iraq to help train military police in Baghdad. He was there for two months when he was killed. The family has set up the Michael Oremus Foundation in his memory, to help youngsters who can’t afford to go to camps or to attend recreational activities. “I know it would make him so happy to know that his name is being carried on and he’s helping other people,” his mother said. “And it helps me, too, because it keeps his name alive.”

Michael Oremus was killed October 2, 2006, Yom Kippur, by a gunshot wound from enemy forces in Baghdad. He was 21 years old.


Tech Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner

A military family

It was Timothy Weiner’s lifelong dream to join the United States Air Force. “He had a fascination with aircraft, did plane models, and he talked about being in the Air Force since he was 8 years old,” his brother, Kevin Weiner, told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. The youngest of five, Weiner chose a life in the military like all three of his brothers, enlisting in 1990 and becoming an explosives expert.

Speaking with the Sun-Sentinel, his family remembered Weiner as a man who had a sense of authority and responsibility, marrying his high school sweetheart after graduation. Weiner was set to return to his wife, Debbie, and his teenage son two weeks before he died. He planned to retire from the Air Force three years later.

His sister-in-law, Barbara Weiner, recalled how proud Weiner had been of his son, Jonathan. “It’s going to be a rough time for his son, but he will know how brave his father was and what a heroic thing he was doing,” she said.

Timothy Weiner was killed January 7, 2007, by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device while performing duties in Baghdad. He was 35 years old.


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