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Vicki Lewis

Lt. Vicki Lewis joined the United States Army in 1979 following her graduation from college.

Having the unique and fortunate experience of beginning a military career during the arms buildup of the 1980's, Vicki quickly rose up the ranks going from ambulance platoon leader to nuclear, biological and chemical warfare trainer.

Following a tour of active duty with the 1st Infantry Division, Vicki granted an extensive interview with the Chicago Sentinel, where she commented extensively on her experiences as a Jewish woman in the United States military. Despite the armed forces having the most fair, non-discriminatory policies on paper, Vicki felt that ignorance and insensitivity often compromised her rights as a Jew. In religious services, for example, many clergymen offered praises to "Jesus Christ our lord." Other times administrative personnel, not realizing the importance of the High Holy Days, would fail to issue leave orders on time. Passover matzohs and Chanukah candles were sometimes not available when needed. Everyone was required to work on Saturdays and pork was often the only meat served.

Perhaps the most humiliating experience for Vicki, however, involved the regular use of anti-Semitic phrases such as "Jew ´em down."

Nevertheless, Vicki enjoyed an overwhelming sense of pride that came from working hard and developing a special camaraderie among her co-soldiers. The most important lesson learned from her military experience was to "never say that I can't do something - only that I haven't done it yet."

Sources: Courtesy of the Jewish Women's Archives and Jewish War Veterans