(RNS) Today marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the U.S. barracks in Lebanon that left 241 U.S. servicemen dead. A Navy chaplain, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, was one of the first on the scene. As he briefly described in an email this morning:
After I had used my kippa (skullcap) to wipe blood and dirrt off the face of a wounded Marine, Catholic Chaplain George Pucciarelli made me a makeshift “camouflage kippa,” using material he tore off his uniform.
After the attack, Resnicoff was asked to submit a report to the White House, and President Reagan read the report the following year to a gathering of 20,000 Baptists organized by the late Jerry Falwell. Here’s Reagan’s speech, which is a full account of Resnicoff’s report:
“Let us strive to live up to the vision of faith that Chaplain Resnicoff saw that day, and let us never stop praying and working for peace,” Reagan said, wrapping up his remarks.
There’s a policy change that came out of that attack 30 years ago.
For two years running, the “religious apparel amendment,” which would have allowed any military person to wear a skullcap for religious reasons, had failed to pass — but the next year, after that story had been read into the Congressional Record, it passed.
Resnicoff continued to serve with distinction in the Navy, retiring as command chaplain for the U.S. European Command. He was one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans memorial in Washington and prayed at its dedication in 1981. Later, he oversaw ecumenical and interfaith work for the American Jewish Committee.
Most recently he’s been active in pushing the Pentagon to approve standardized chaplains insignia for military uniforms. Everyone needs a favorite rabbi, and Resnicoff is one of ours.