Re-posted from Friends of the IDF website.
Today, flags in Israel are flown at half-staff, and all Israel stands with bowed heads and tearful eyes in memory of the 23,544 soldiers and 3,117 civilians who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Israel's continued existence with security and prosperity. Today we all keep the families of the fallen in our hearts.
The hardest moments of my decades of service in the IDF were the moments of loss. Even more painful was the moment at which I had to share the worst news imaginable -- the loss of a child, a parent, a sibling or a loved one -- to their family, knowing full well that in one instant, their lives had changed forever, and that a hole had now formed which would never be filled.
I remember all those heroic young men and women -- their courage under fire, their bravery, their dedication, and their patriotism. To this day, I miss each and every one of them; to this day, I still remember their beautiful faces -- faces which will remain forever young in my memory.
All of these heroes were so fiercely dedicated to their mission, all of them fulfilled, until the very end, their commitment and oath to the IDF as they promised on the day they enlisted..."I swear and commit to maintain allegiance to the State of Israel, its laws, and its authorities, to accept upon myself unconditionally the discipline of the Israel Defense Forces, to obey all the orders and instructions given by authorized commanders, and to devote all my energies, and even sacrifice my life, for the protection of the homeland and the liberty of Israel."
The sacrifices these soldiers and their families made were not in vain, and we endeavor every single day to ensure they never will be. Since the establishment of the Israeli state, we stand independent thanks to the generations of IDF warriors and their unyielding dedication.
And so, as we move from the pain of this day of remembrance to celebration on the eve of Israel's 69th birthday, let us resolve to keep the memories of the fallen alive forever.
Tomorrow, as we celebrate the 69th Yom Haatzmaut, the day when the flags fly their highest, we stand tall and proud, a free people in our own homeland.
Even from the lowest point ever in humanity's history, when one-third of the Jewish people were eliminated, we succeeded in re-building ourselves; we succeeded in establishing a Jewish homeland, and the State of Israel, which has become a leading country in our world.
As the late President John F. Kennedy said during a speech in 1960, "Israel was not created in order to disappear -- Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom."
Israel's creation into a country which truly has endured and flourished is unprecedented. Israel's unparalleled contributions and achievements in security, medicine, science, education, technology, and the arts; earned moniker as the Startup Nation; and accumulation of Nobel Prizes and other accolades, lay testament to its contributions to societies globally and to making this a better world.
Without the ultimate price that we paid and continue to pay, without the strong bonds between our countries that share the same values and morality, and without your solidarity and love, these achievements would simply not have been possible, nor would Israel continue to be a symbol of freedom, of morality, and of hope.
May the memories of the fallen always be a blessing. We pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded, the return of missing soldiers, and for the ongoing strength and resolve of Israel's citizens and their protectors. May we celebrate Israel's birthday for centuries to come and may she remain free and prosperous forever.
With utmost respect,
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir
National Director and CEO
Friends of the IDF (FIDF)