Bratman (Source: Facebook)

With the last of the American troops set to be pulled out of Iraq in the beginning of January, current Kings Bay Y Community Center employee Ilya Bratman remembers what it was like being in the war.

In the beginning of his military career, Bratman was stationed in Korea and Germany. But that soon changed after the events of September 11; his squad was one of the first to get called into the Middle East.

According to the Jewish Daily Forward, at least 37 Jewish men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces had died in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bratman could have been number 38, but a series of coincidences kept him safe – though just barely.

Here is an account of his near death experience in the Jerusalem Post:

“We were taking off from Baghdad International Airport in a Hercules C-130 when the pilot began maneuvering wildly,” he said. “It’s a cargo plane – there are no seats – so we were thrown around inside hitting the walls. Some people were knocked out and many others were screaming.”

Bratman grabbed a net and, through the window, saw two bright lights narrowly miss the aircraft. They were surface-to-air missiles fired by insurgents.

Had they hit the plane, which carried 150 soldiers, it would have been the worst U.S. military disaster in Iraq. The pilot released flares to draw off the missiles.

“We spent the rest of the flight to Qatar in perfect silence,” Bratman said. “We were in such a state of shock.”

He avoided death once more when he wasn’t allowed to rest and recuperate because he was needed on a mission. The helicopter he was meant to board ended up getting shot down, with no one surviving the crash.

After being honorably discharged in 2004, Bratman has worked at the Kings Bay Y Jewish Community Center (3495 Nostrand Avenue) and volunteered with Limmud FSU.

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  • Jessica Verkhovsky

    Ilya’s an awesome person. His stories are so inspirational and touching. Always so willing to help, give back, and always smiling. 

  • NSF

    Thanks for your service Ilya! 
    We’re proud of you!