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View Full Version : Jewish Couple Decry Army Discharge



Ironduke
07 Dec 03,, 20:49
Jewish Couple Decry Army Discharge
Associated Press
December 6, 2003


HOUSTON - Refael and Margaret Chaiken were supposed to be seven months into a five-year Army commitment by now, studying to be much-needed interrogators in the war on terrorism. Instead they are civilians looking for jobs.

The two were discharged after disobeying orders by skipping class so they could attend services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

"Our religion itself says if you are saving somebody's life, you have to (cease the observance)," Refael Chaiken said. "No one can convince us not going to class, when you can make it up, falls under that category."

The Army calls the Nov. 14 discharges a simple matter.

"They didn't meet the requirements of the course," said Tanja Linton, a spokeswoman at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where the Chaikens were training. "You have to meet the requirements of the course. We really just don't see the story here."

She said the Army acted within its regulation on religious practices, which says it will accomodate religious practices "unless accommodation will have an adverse impact on unit readiness, individual readiness, unit cohesion, morale, discipline, safety, and/or health."

Jack Zimmermann, a Jewish Vietnam veteran who served 14 years active duty in the Marines and 16 more in the Marine reserves before retiring as a colonel, said he was shocked to hear about the Chaikens' plight.

"I observed 30 Yom Kippurs as a Marine officer and was never asked not to," said Zimmermann, now a lawyer in Houston. "Even in Vietnam, I was commanding an artillery battery along the (demilitarized zone) and was able to return to Danang for high holiday services."

The military can bar a religious observance only in case of military necessity, added Zimmerman, who is not involved in the case. He said that should not include a "stateside classroom situation" and courses that easily could be made up.

The Chaikens said their problems began on Oct. 4, two days before the holiday, when Battalion Commander Dennis Perkins told them not to attend all-day services. They said they were told to go to class as scheduled, but could go to services after class.

That meant nothing, Refael Chaiken said, because classes lasted so long. So the couple skipped class and attended a service at the fort's chapel.

Refael Chaiken, 27, knew there would be consequences when they returned.

"They gave us a counseling statement and read us our rights, accused us of being AWOL and willful disobedience of a lawful order," said Chaiken, a veteran of the Israeli army who holds dual citizenship.

The Army disputed Chaiken's story on Friday. Fort Huachuca spokesman Maj. Paul Karnaze said officials were unable to find the couple at the Yom Kippur services held at the post chapel. He added that the couple remained unaccounted for until after sunset, when they returned to the barracks.

The couple said they were essentially put under house arrest and were threatened with military charges and punishment.

"We couldn't go to the store, we couldn't do anything," said Margaret Chaiken, 26, who holds a master's degree from the Sorbonne and speaks fluent French and Hebrew.

The legal problems disappeared when they filed a complaint with the Army's Equal Opportunity Department, the couple said. They were simply given a general discharge that mentions "misconduct" as a reason behind their return to civilian life.

The couple, who married in August after enlisting together, are staying with a relative in Houston and planned to seek work in the New York area.

Refael Chaiken still wants to employ his Arabic and Hebrew language skills - honed growing up in Hebron since 1984 - but believes he'll need an honorable discharge to have a chance at U.S. government work.

"With a discharge like this it's going to be very hard to get a job with a three-letter agency like the CIA or FBI," he said.

bigross86
08 Dec 03,, 15:23
I don't see why the Army didn't let them go to services. I mean, one day? What about Chritsmas, Easter or any other holiday?

Officer of Engineers
08 Dec 03,, 15:49
The two were not at the services provided by the army and thus were suspect of just using the holiday as an excuse for a day off.

bigross86
08 Dec 03,, 16:15
The Army disputed Chaiken's story on Friday. Fort Huachuca spokesman Maj. Paul Karnaze said officials were unable to find the couple at the Yom Kippur services held at the post chapel. He added that the couple remained unaccounted for until after sunset, when they returned to the barracks.

But that doesn't mean they weren't at services somewhere else.

Officer of Engineers
08 Dec 03,, 17:51
The Army has strict rules about religious observerance. There's no problem with being at services somewhere else as long as you tell the Army in advance and bring them proof (usually a note from your pastor/rabbi/iman/etc) that you actually attended.

None of this occurred and correctly, those two were viewed as AWOL.

Bill
11 Dec 03,, 11:38
They disobeyed a direct and lawful order from their CO and went AWOL.........case closed.

Stinger
12 Dec 03,, 13:24
Originally posted by M21Sniper
They disobeyed a direct and lawful order from their CO and went AWOL.........case closed. Just playing Devils advocate.

The argument being it was possibly an unlawful order. Plus we don't know for sure that the Army sent anyone to look for them, that could merely be a statement designed for covering their own asses.


I'm not sure they should have been discharged though, given that they could be useful. Punished like all hell yes.... then use the shit out of them and 3 years down the line they get a general discharge.

Bill
12 Dec 03,, 22:18
they dont have to send anyone to look.

If you are not at your designated post at the designated time, you are AWOL.

Like i said, end of story.

It was a completely lawful order.

tarek
29 Dec 03,, 05:45
Either way - they signed up with full knowledge of the commitment to the service - the service - the service makes the rules and individuals are free to disregard them and accept the consequences.

TopHatter
03 Jan 04,, 15:41
It's definitely a shame but as the Colonel and Snipe have pointed out, AWOL is AWOL.
Also, I am given to understand that the Army provides (and provided for them) Jewish services that they did not attend?
Seems rather silly that they should not use the services provided, considering that they are in the United States Army and not working in an office for some corporation somewhere. The rules are different in the military. You either follow them or you are history.
Like I said though, a shame to lose those language skills.