April 22nd, 2011 marked a sad day for the Willen family, as they mourned the passing of Martin Willen. Martin Willen (or known as Baba to his family) lived a long and fruitful life, but probably not very well known - even in his own community in Baltimore, MD. He was a silent man who rarely complained, and always put his family first. However, what he should be known for is his service to his country during World War II. Not only was he there for D-Day (serving under Colonel Slappy), but he was called upon to perform a special duty - something we rarely see or hear of today - he was asked to speak before for the thousands upon thousands of soldiers quite often before they went into battle. His voice was not heard as a rallying cry or a pep-talk - but instead in prayer as he canted spiritual hymns for both Christians and Jews. His golden voice rang throughout the platoons giving his fellows an uplifting sense of spirituality. He gladly took on the role, as he felt that he was helping improve morale.
After surviving the war, he went to cant for his local choir at Beth Alm in Baltimore, MD, where he participated well into his 90's.
As I attended his funeral, I witnessed a little piece of gratitude that I am rarely exposed to - which got me choked up. I observed his brothers (who also served in the military) slowly rise up and raised their shaking right-hand to salute him - and then tearfully watched his fellow marines blow the trumpet and perform their ritual - once again making me appreciate those men and women that gave their lives to protect mine. Their ritual was a small gesture, but sure made me wish that I had the chance to serve our country - as there is clearly no higher honor than to have complete strangers perform a ceremony in your honor with the highest respect upon your passing.
Baba was 96 years young (did not have any wrinkles), we will miss you.