I’ve never been one who gets moved by standing in front of a tombstone.
I was 20 years old when the building that collapsed on my tank during the Second Lebanon War changed my life forever. Yaniv Temerson was a junior tank commander who joined my crew as our temporary driver. I was lucky that Yaniv was not only a smart, calm and effective commander, but also a physically big guy. When I was injured and needed to be evacuated from under the rubble, Yaniv immediately jumped into action and got me out of that tank in the fastest way possible.
In my absence, Yaniv replaced me as the commander of the tank. The next night he reentered Lebanon and was hit by an anti-tank missile and killed. Yaniv was 21.
I have never been someone that is moved by tombstones, nor have I ever been someone who allows himself to grieve too much. Some might say that I’m heartless, and those who’ve studied psychology might say that I’m not allowing myself to be vulnerable. As for me, however, on Memorial Day I always wonder, “How would Yaniv want me to be?”
Would Yaniv want his friends and loved ones to grieve and despair over his sacrifice? As someone who proudly chose to fight for his people and his country, I know that Yaniv wouldn’t want anybody to lament over him. He’d want us to celebrate his life.
Would Yaniv want his friends and loved ones to have every happy moment in life mired in regret and longing? No way! I know that he would want us to dance and sing and laugh at every wedding, party and family gathering that we could wrap our hands around.
Would Yaniv want me to stagnate in life, wondering endlessly about the reasons why things happen the way the do? No! He’d push me forward, flash his enormous smile at me and say, “Dude… stop being so heavy… just go with the flow…”
He would want me to travel the world and visit the places I’ve always dreamed of going. He would want me to overcome my fears, to take a chance and ask the most beautiful women out on a date. He’d want me to excel at my career and do the things that I love to do most in life. He’d want me to keep life light and fun and to keep smiling no matter the circumstances. He would want me to raise a glass with my family and friends at every opportunity. He would want me to use every living moment either to do something for myself or for someone else. He would want me to share funny memories and stories about the ridiculous times that we spent together. He would want me to become the most extraordinary version of myself that I can be. And he’d want me to be thankful for everyone, everything and who I am at this moment in my life.
So, I know that on Memorial Day I’m supposed to honor and remember my fallen brethren. But if I really want to honor Yaniv and my other fallen friends, I can see them now… all standing together side-by-side with their arms over each other’s shoulders, smiling, and telling me, “Go live the most extraordinary life that you possibly can.”
Live big, love hard, laugh loudly, take chances, fail gloriously, make money, give it away, say what you have to say and be who you want to be. That’s how we honor our fallen brothers and sisters. That’s who Yaniv would want me to be.
Ron Weinreich is an IDF veteran and musician who today lives in California. You find him at: