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Living for the fallen: An Airman’s fight for her heritage

By Airman 1st Class Sydney Campbell 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

She remembered her trip to Poland as haunting and depressing. This is the country her grandparents were in when they survived the Holocaust. Walking through parts of Auschwitz, she felt connected to them and she hurt for them. She thought to herself, “This can never happen again.”

This was the experience of Airman 1st Class Daniella Strauss, 2nd Maintenance Group maintenance analyst and current honor guardsman, during her trip with the March of the Living, an eye-opening trip which brought her closer to her grandparents and heritage.

Strauss grew up listening to stories from her grandparents about their experiences during the Holocaust. She remembers the marking on her grandmother’s arm, a numerical tattoo etched into her as a way for her to be tracked and identified. It was through these stories and experiences that Strauss learned how to be the person she wanted to be.

“I would be a different woman without them,” Strauss said. ”All of my grandparents have really brought themselves up from nothing, and I have the utmost respect for them. They are huge motivators for me to do well, pushing me to be the best I can be.”

Strauss pushes herself to meet the demands of being a maintenance analyst, and honor guardsman, because to Strauss, being in the U.S. Air Force is more than just a job.

“Knowing that my family members were liberated from the war by the American military makes me feel so much pride in what I do now,” Strauss said. “America played a huge role in saving my family’s lives, so it truly feels like an honor to be a part of this great Air Force.”

Strauss’ grandmother was able to migrate to America on an American naval ship, the USNS General M. L. Hersey (AP-148).

“The U.S. armed services brought my parents, my brother and me to the U.S. on a ship called Hersey in 1951,” said Serena Raczkowski, Daniella’s maternal grandmother. “Now Daniella is serving the same country, I am so proud of her.”

Loving what she does now, Strauss wants to push herself even further to pursue a career speaking Hebrew, the language of her religion.

“I want to use my love for learning languages and be a linguistics officer,” Strauss said. “I can already speak Hebrew and English, and I dabble in Spanish, French and Portuguese. I would love to get to go back to Israel for my job and travel the world as a linguist.”

Strauss has traveled before, visiting the country her grandparents once ran from.

“I went on that trip to learn more and have a deeper connection with my heritage, now that I’ve been I try to share my experience with others,” Strauss said. “As soon as I meet someone new I let them know I am Jewish. I talk about my trip to the concentration camps and the joy I felt visiting Israel. I talk about it to give others insight and compassion. I hope the world never forgets the Holocaust because as long as we remember it, it will hopefully never happen again.”

Yom HaShoah, a Jewish holiday for grievance, is observed every year to remember the Holocaust.

“During Yom HaShoah, I take a moment to remember those people,” Strauss said. “I remember my grandparents and the stories they’ve told me. We take this time to keep their stories close to our hearts. One day, when I have children, my grandparents might not be around to share their stories, so it’s up to us as the decedents to carry on their legacy.”

Strauss continues to learn from her grandparents and other Holocaust survivors, she will not let their stories and her heritage be forgotten.