United States Army Specialist Daniel J. Agami, 25, affectionately known as “G.I. Jew,” was killed in Baghdad on June 21 when an improvised explosive device detonated near the humvee in which he and four other soldiers were riding. Over 1000 people attended his funeral this past Tuesday where he was buried with full military honors at Star of David Cemetery in North Lauderdale. Agami was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Army Commendation Medal.
Born in Ohio, Daniel moved with his family to South Florida at the age of four. He attended the Hebrew Academy Community School in Margate, and his Jewish education and experiences at the school left an indelible impression on him. He graduated from Coconut Creek High School and was attending college when he made the decision two years ago to enlist in the United States Army.
Rabbi Yossi Denburg, Dean of the Hebrew Academy Community School, and spiritual leader of Chabad of Coral Springs officiated at the funeral.
“Daniel did not consult with anyone when he enlisted. He simply felt a calling,” Denburg said. “He always knew his life was meant for a greater significance and purpose and first and foremost, Daniel was a soldier in G-d’s Army.”
Denburg went on to describe Daniel’s unique Jewish-American legacy. “He kept kosher while in the Army, he slept with an American and Israeli flag over his bunk, his rifle had a sign titled “The Hebrew Hammer,” and he named the U.S. Army issued yalmulke his “Combatika,” Denberg said. “Daniel’s sense of humor and love of life was evident in all that he did.”
According to Captain Jared Purcell, Public Affairs Officer in Baghdad, in addition to his role as a combat soldier, Daniel was a mentor to orphaned children in Iraq.
“Daniel did a lot of work with local schools,” Purcell explained. “His ‘Charlie Company’ helped refurbish many schools in Adhamiyah and Daniel was always right in the middle of it with the children and you could see how much they loved him.”
Chaplain Rabbi (Col.) Jacob Goldstein, Office of the Chief of Chaplains, US Army, told the crowd, “Today I had the honor of bringing home a true soldier,” as he recounted tales of Daniel’s memorable take-charge initiative and Jewish pride.
Brigadier General Nolen V. Bivens, Chief of Staff, United States Southern Command, remarked that during Agami’s his short two-year tenure in the army he distinguished himself as a model soldier who was not only physically and morally strong but also devoted to his fellow soldiers.
“During his tour, Daniel was awarded the Bronze Star after chasing a sniper on foot to defend his convoy,” Bivens said. “As a front-line soldier, he was interviewed for the TV show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” as well as MSNBC, and articles for “Newsweek” and “Veterans for America.” We mourn his loss, but take comfort that Daniel died proudly defending his belief that: America fights for the freedom and survival of the entire world.”
In an interview with FJN this week, Emmy-Award winning television journalist Bill O’Reilly, of “The O’Reilly Factor,” commented, “I interviewed this young man in December 2006. Here you have a situation of a young guy volunteering, who could have done a myriad of other things. But, he was convinced his presence was helping his country. His death and all the other deaths are a tragedy. Ninety percent of the forces feel the same as Daniel. You may differ or agree with the war, but you must agree they are patriots and I think of them as heroes, myself. “O’Reilly continued, “No soldier or Marine in the theater does what Daniel did without tremendous parent. He had a true moral compass that he received from them.”
The evening of the funeral, “The O’Reilly Factor” led with the story of Daniel’s death, as did all the local news. Following the service, the American flag draped casket was escorted by an Honor Guard, and rabbis from all over South Florida, including Rabbi Yosef Biston of Chabad of Parkland, where the Agami family resides. Once at the gravesite, the rifleman fired off eighteen volleys of shots, rather than the usual twenty-one, to signify “chai,” the Jewish symbol for life.
Brigadier General Bivens kneeled upon presenting the folded flag to Daniel’s mother, Beth “Bluma” Agami, and father Yitzhak. At their side were newlywed brother Ilan, 22, and his wife Elisha, his seven-year-old sister Shaina, 7, and maternal grandmother Sandy Becker.
On behalf of President George W. Bush, Bivens presented the family with multiple medals of honor including The Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, The Good Conduct Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Iraqi Campaign Medal and The Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Agami was posthumously promoted from Private First Class to the rank of Specialist one day previous.
Other military officials in attendance included some fifty representatives from the Jewish War Veterans, Retired Army Chaplain Sandy Dresin, of The Aleph Institute, Major Mack Waters, Southern Command; and Casualty Assistance Officer, Lt. Col. Douglas Maddox, Jr., who later told FJN, “You should know that the Army had some phenomenal plans for Daniel. They were going to use his talents and center an advertising campaign around him as an ambassador for the United States Army. The campaign was slated to commence in three months when Daniel was to return stateside. He was an extraordinary young man with a tremendous love of country, love of family, and love of faith.”