A veteran of decades in the military, Colonel Cohn was not a man who paraded his emotions or fell into panic when the going got rough, yet Moe could sense something in the air as he walked swiftly into his CO’s small office. There was an unusual tension in the man’s shoulders, tightness around his eyes that did not bode well.

I haven’t been concentrating lately… did I mess something up?

“Well, Moe,” the colonel said with a humorless smile, “it seems you’re getting what you’ve asked for.”

“Sir?”

“Your transfer. I’ve just approved it. You’re shipping out tonight.”

Moe tried to keep his voice as steady and emotionless as that of his superior officer. “Thank you, sir. May I ask where my next posting will be?”

“I’m sending you into combat, Moe. To Belgium.” The colonel’s face seemed to transform; suddenly he looked like an old man. “The Nazis have launched an offensive, a huge counterattack. Moe, we’re taking a beating. A bad beating.”

Moe stared at him in almost paralyzed shock. Counterattack? Offensive? Since the successful Normandy landings, the news from the Western Front had been so positive, with Allied troops slowly but surely beating back the Germans. Yes, the troops were bogged down in Holland, but that was a side issue: It was clear that the Nazis were outnumbered, outgunned, and outclassed, and victory was just a matter of time. The bad guys were on the run: everyone knew it.

But now it appeared that everyone was wrong.

The colonel’s voice pulled his thoughts back to this quiet office in this quiet British estate where Moe had been living his quiet, safe, existence. “I’m sorry to be sending you out there, Moe. It’s going to be a tough fight. Men are getting killed and being taken prisoner, some are running away. It’s not pretty.”

“There’s a war going on, sir. We’ve all got to do our part.” He regretted the words as soon as he’d said them; this was no time for clich?s and platitudes. But the colonel hardly seemed to hear them. He went on speaking in a low, measured tone.

“You saved my son, Moe, and your father has given him a new lease on life. Not the life I would have chosen for him, but one that’s making him happy. And now, G-d forgive me, I’m sending your father’s son out to battle.” His voice held a hint of pleading.

“I wouldn’t do it, Moe, but they need men out there. The line is stretched far too thin. And they particularly need translators. A man who speaks many languages, and also has intelligence experience, will be invaluable there.” His voice deepened. “This was an intelligence failure, Moe, a major failure.”

“Didn’t we have any intimation of it here?”

“I’ve been looking through the decrypts of the past few weeks. There was some extra enemy activity in the Ardennes region, which was duly noted and sent to HQ, who ignored it. We were all suffering from overconfidence, and now we’re paying for it. We’re paying in boys’ lives.” He handed Moe his orders and walked him to the door. “Good luck, my boy. You’ve been a fine soldier until now, and I’m sure you’ll do well.” He gave him a firm handshake and then, unexpectedly, unbelievably, wrapped him into a tight hug.

“I’m not religious like you are, but we pray to the same G-d, Moe. I’ll be praying for you.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 537)