Specialist, U.S. Army
SPC Kashnow, raised in Baltimore, is a fourth generation American whose grandfather fought in World War II and whose father volunteered for the Vietnam War. His dream, ever since he was a young child was to join the military. In February of 2002 Joe Kashnow went to Army Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky where he was trained as a cavalry scout.
In April of 2003, SPC Kashnow left his wife Sarai (of less than three months) in Fort Carson, Colorado when his unit, the 4th Infantry Division, was deployed in support Operation Iraqi Freedom. After landing in Kuwait, SPC Kashnnow was part of the 4th IDs push to Baghdad and to airfields north of the city.
Not long after he arrived in country, the two-week supply of kosher MREs he brought with him had somehow disappeared en-route. Not to be discouraged, SPC Kashnow quickly improvised some new methods for keeping kosher, including making grape juice from raisins for Kiddush and using matzo for motzie. He didnt stop there either. In between securing airfields north of Baghdad, he found time to study Torah. Rather than play Gameboy or watch TV, he says, I found solace in studying Pirkei Avos, contemplating who I was as a Jew. My time spent in Iraq really changed me for a better person. Because of mission requirements, he couldnt stop the vehicle when it was time to pray, so he would often daven in his seat while on the move.
On Wednesday Sept 17, 2003 SPC Kashnow was on a routine supply mission when his convoy was ambushed. He was driving the gun truck at the tail end of the convoy. Just as his humvee crossed over an aqueduct, a buried IED exploded through the floor of his vehicle. The timing of the blast was miraculous, he says. Had it happened seconds sooner, the shrapnel would have come through the windshield, and had it happened seconds later, shrapnel would have come through the side door and cut me in half even with the bulletproof vest. It is impossible that I would have lived through either.
SPC Kashnow is presently undergoing reconstructive procedures to save his right leg at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. Although his leg will more than likely never be 100 percent back to normal, his treatment is going well and he is grateful to God that he is alive today.
Now he wants to help other Jewish soldiers in any branch of the American military. To that end he has founded the Jewish Soldier Foundation (www.jewishsoldier.org), a non-profit organization whose 3-part mission is:
Advocating for Jewish soldiers by working with the military and the U.S. Congress
Providing educational resources for Jewish soldiers about the rich history and traditions of their faith
Offering Jewish soldiers and their families all the elements necessary to observe the tenets of their faith, including books, kosher food, and the full spectrum of ritual services.