Vietnam and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

(NCR photo/Rick Reinhard)

Rabbi Resnicoff credits his interest in the military to his father, who immigrated to the US from the Soviet Union when he was 3 years old, and whom Rabbi Resnicoff still calls the most patriotic man he has ever met. Although a lawyer and eligible for officer training, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jack Resnicoff went to the recruitment officer and enlisted that day as a “Seabee” (C.B. – Naval Construction Batallion). His father’s passion, love, and pride for the US led Rabbi Resnicoff to to enlist in the Naval Reserves in high school, starting at the rank of SR (Seaman Recruit), and then join NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps) in college.

Rabbi Resnicoff graduated from NROTC at Dartmouth College, following which Resnicoff served as a line officer in the rivers of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in 1969-70. During that assignment, then-Ensign Resnicoff was part of “Operation Game Warden” — the effort to keep the rivers free of Viet Cong infiltrators. He was onboard the USS Hunterdon County (LST-838) in May 1970, when it became the first U.S. commissioned vessel to enter the rivers of Cambodia. It was there that he developed a close relationship with the circuit-riding Episcopal Chaplain Lester “Les” Westling, who became his role model and his usher to the chaplaincy.

Years later, now a chaplain, Rabbi Resnicoff was part of the small group of  Vietnam veterans, led by founder Jan Scruggs, that worked to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, D.C. Scruggs was an Army corporal with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade who had been wounded on the battlefield in Vietnam. On November 13, 1982, Rabbi Resnicoff delivered the closing prayer at the official dedication of “The Wall.” Even before its dedication, Rabbi Resnicoff actually gave the prayer at two small foundational ceremonies: one to commemorate the fact that Congress had agreed to let the memorial be built at that site, and one at the groundbreaking ceremony. Much later, he repeated the same prayer at the memorial’s 20th anniversary ceremony in 2002 and 25th in 2007; in 2022, Rabbi Resnicoff opened the 40th anniversary ceremony with a prayer. Rabbi Resnicoff also delivered the prayer at Memorial Day ceremonies at the Wall in 2018, 2020, and 2021. He has been referred to as “the Wall’s rabbi” because of his many prayers for ceremonies there. His original 1982 prayer is included in “The Treasury of American Prayers,” published in 2008 by Doubleday. 

Dedication Closing Prayer (1982)

40th Anniversary Opening Prayer (2022)

Rabbi Resnicoff considers the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a “healing” wall. And to any fellow Vietnam veteran who happens upon this page and still has yet to hear the words, Rabbi Resnicoff says:

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