Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sergeant Ira Reiff, US Army Signal Corps, 1924 - 2013

I wanted to get this post done before the end of 2013, and have scrambled to do so.  It doesn't have anything to do with wargaming, but it's important to me, so I hope any readers of this blog will bear with me while I digress from the Second Afghan War in 28mm, but fear not -- it's got nothing to do with religion or politics...

My father -- Ira Reiff -- passed away on Sunday, December 22.  He was 89 years old, had weathered a number of serious health issues over the past twenty years or so, and had been seriously ill for more than a year.  Towards the end, he chose to leave the hospital and come back home to stay with my mom, in hospice care, where my mother, my brother and his girlfriend, and myself, my wife, and our three children, spent as much time as possible with him.  One thing I am certain of is that he was more comfortable, and happier, during those last 16 days he spent at home, than he had been for some time.

Throughout his life, more by example than conscious effort, he taught me one thing.  A four-letter word:  W O R K.

As a very active former Boy Scout and Scout leader, my dad chose to be buried in his Scout leader uniform, and as a World War Two Signal Corps veteran of the China-India-Burma Theater, and Central Pacific Area, to be buried with an Army Honor Guard.

Since starting this blog in July of 2010, I have only mentioned my dad a few times -- either in the context of his wartime service in British India, during which his Signal Corps unit's hi-tech equipment was watched over by Gurkha sentries, and which, decades later, his telling stories of, led to my own interest in British colonial history -- or in the context of him having built a "war-room" in the basement of our family's house in Brooklyn around 1977 or '78, for my brother, myself, and our friends to play our miniature wargames and RPGs.

My dad lived a long and productive life.  He fought a war, helped build the state of Israel, returned to the US, met and married my mother, and then -- in the mid-Seventies -- took a huge chance by purchasing a house in the outer boroughs of New York City, while the city itself was poised on the verge of bankruptcy and collapse.  Like most things in my father's life, this questionable gamble worked out well in the end.

My father loved the outdoors (at one point after the war he nearly joined the National Park Service), and loved the sea (he grew up working in his WWI US Navy veteran father's Ship's Chandler shop at the South Street Seaport), and also loved doing his own thing his own way.  He always got the job done, but was not an "Institutional" guy, even while he was part of one of the largest institutions in human history, the WWII US military.  One morning, during his Army training, he and a bunch of other recruits were caught trying to sneak out of camp to shoot craps instead of participating in morning calisthenics.  All the transgressors were taken to the parade-ground, and for some reason -- perhaps pure luck, or, more likely, thanks to some wisecrack he made while they were being apprehended -- my dad was ordered to lead the entire camp in their morning exercises.  He did a spit-and-polish job on all the exercises up to the very last, most physically-challenging, one: push-ups.  Then he raised his hands and announced to the camp: "We will now do finger exercises."  He moved his fingers up and down, while calling out:  "One, two, three... ONE!  One, two, three... TWO!  One, two, three... THREE"

I'm not sure how many days -- or weeks -- of KP he got for that one, but however much it was, I'm sure he was smiling to himself as he did it, though after a while I'm sure he was cursing to himself as well.

I will miss my dad, but I'll always have my memories of him, some of them painful, others hilarious, but all of them distinctly him.

Here are a few pictures of my dad during his military service...


  1. They don't make them like that any more mate. He had a damn good innings by the sounds of things. Condolences to your family.

  2. Thank you for sharing your memories with us, and our condolences for your loss.

  3. A life worth sharing, we should all be fortunate to have known an Ira Reiff; my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  4. Sorry to hear of your loss. You have done him proud with what you have just written, he sounded like a great man.

  5. Sorry for your loss Ethan he sounds look quite a character the finger story is great!


  6. Ethan,

    I'm very sorry to hear of your father's passing. You are very lucky to be able to have had such a close relationship with your father. I know you will cherish those memories. It sounds as if he was a good man. Very eloquent eulogy! I thank you for him for his service to our nation to help keep our families free!

    I know what a rough time you are going through as I had lost my mom whom was the matriarch of my extended family. She was the glue that kept us all together.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May the new year bring you and yours health, happiness, and prosperity.

    Best regards,
    Jeff Baumal
    Sgt. Guinness

  7. Moving Simplified We found out this morning that we may be headed to
    Fort Bragg this summer(surprising as we weren't due to PCS for another year)
    fort bragg pcs

  8. Hi guys,

    Just want to say a very big and very sincere THANK YOU to everyone who spent time leaving a comment on this post I did honoring my dad.

    To woolshed and Tomo and Paul, it was great to see fresh faces taking the time to comment.

    To the English trio of Michael Awdry, Pat Smith, and WIllie Anderson, first off, I must tell you, yours are my three favorite blogs, and the ones I spend the most time visiting. All three of you have been regular visitors and strong supporters of my own narrow hobby efforts here at Maiwand Day, virtually since I began, so it means a lot to see your comments.

    To Sgt. Guiness -- aka: Jeff Baumal -- the only commentor I've ever met in the flesh, and seen "pushing lead" atop a wargaming table, thanks for taking the time to write what you did, my friend, I really do appreciate it, and I'm sorry to hear about you having lost your mom, and pass on my own heartfelt condolences to you.

    It's true it has been a difficult time for my family, but it's also true -- as some of you noted -- that he led a full and pretty happy life, and also that the time had come when he was ready to leave this life behind, so though it is sad, I think it's far easier for those of us who loved him to accept than it might have been under different circumstances, or at least for I myself to accept.

    And finally, to Abu Saleh... well, I think your comment somehow went awry from where it was meant to be targeted. I assume "PCS" refers to "Permanent Change of Station" as used in American military parlance. Though I imagine it's just a fluke, it is somehow an oddly appropriate one, considering my father's Army service and the fact that he could be said to have just received his final "PCS", from this life to what comes next.

    I hope to finally complete the last of the six "low sandy hills" for use in my Charasiab layout some time very soon -- right now I'm almost done with the fifth one. When that happens I'll post some picks and a brief "how to" -- very brief, as they are small, humble pieces, but I think they do look okay, but you guys will have to be the judge of that!

  9. Your father sounds like a fine man, who deserved to be honored with your blog post. I'm very sorry for your loss.

    1. Thanks, Brent, that's kind of you to say. He was indeed a fine man. We Jews light a "Shiva" candle after an immediate family member's funeral, which burns for 7 days (Shiva means "seven" in Hebrew). Because my entire family now lives in Southern California, but brought my dad back to New York for his funeral, I was not able to light my own shiva candle for him until a little more than a week ago. It finished burning some time late Saturday night or very early Sunday morning. It is a ritualistic step on the road to recovering from his loss.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment, and I plan to start visiting your blogs -- both of which I enjoyed checking out.

  10. …and the son Ethan, is a strong testiment to the stellar character of the Father. Blessings young Reiff to you and your amazing Dad.

    1. Clark... hahaha... very nice of you to leave a comment, which I must admit put a big smile on my humble face. Thanks for the kind words. Really hope Cy and I get to work with you this coming season.