In memory of Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941, the Hotchkiss Veterans Club hosted guest speaker Jacob Wijnberg ’08, who spoke to the community during an All-School Meeting about his career in the military. A Green Beret, Wijnberg served in the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), one of the most decorated active-duty army special forces groups in U.S. military. Watch a replay of his address below.
Over his nine-year career, he has served in multiple tours in Europe and the Middle East, most recently to Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. After graduating from Hotchkiss, he attended Dartmouth, where he studied Arabic and philosophy and was commissioned as an officer through Army ROTC. He is transitioning out of the army in January to pursue a master’s degree in business.
“We are gathered here together to remember Pearl Harbor, a day that shaped the course of history, that brought calls across the country for patriotism and sacrifice, and yes, even revenge,” Wijnberg said.
“My war began 20 years ago. I was 11 years old when the planes hit the Twin Towers," Wijnberg said. He noted that after the shock of 9/11, after the funerals, after the speeches, and after Ground Zero went from wreckage to rebuilding, the war on terrorism faded into the background. There wasn’t the same collective effort throughout the country as there was during World War II.
When he entered Hotchkiss, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was not foremost on his mind. He was a long-haired rebel who questioned everything. So when he enrolled in ROTC as soon as he got to Dartmouth it surprised his friends and family. But he had thought deeply about all the servicemen and women who were putting their lives on the line, and he felt a strong urge to get off the sidelines.
Today, he said, "My war has finally come to an end, but I owe a great deal to the men and women with whom I served."
“I have seen them do the impossible –– not for praise or recognition –– but because they believed in the mission, and more importantly they believed in each other."
His Hotchkiss experience in athletics and academics, including wrestling, debating, and writing for the Hotchkiss Record, prepared him well for the military. But it was his service as an officer that taught him the most valuable life skills. He learned that anticipation is almost always more painful than the experience itself, that you are only as good as your last event, and that while you can go far being smart and strong, it is grit and determination that gets you over the finish line.
He learned that trust is earned by the drop but lost by the gallon, that sometimes a 70-percent solution executed immediately is better than a100 percent-solution executed next week. There will always be circumstances out of your control, but great leaders know when to keep pushing and when to change course.
“Finally, I’ve learned that giving of your blood, sweat, and tears in service to something greater than yourself is not all sacrifice. There is also a reward very deep in there that transforms you, and gives you something to keep wherever you go for as long as you live.”