Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, commanders and employees: In the past few weeks, the streets have been quiet and there has been silence outdoors. We’re almost used to it. But today, the silence is completely different in nature. This is a silence that erupts from deep pain and reflects the memories of soldiers whose voices were silenced between one explosion and another, and of the families who sat silently for several long minutes after being given the bitter news.

This is the silence of an entire people, whose sons and daughters are all part of the ongoing battle for our independence and security. This is silence that commands us to stop—stop to remember, stop to tell the families we are with them, even in these difficult days in which we won’t see them in person and won’t crowd into the same row when the siren goes off.

We won’t see you, but we will feel your pain. We won’t stand beside you at a ceremony, but we will stand by you in every other sense. We stand at attention, bow our heads, and remember. We remember that we wear the uniform of the IDF, that we represent the values that the fallen embodied when they left us: commitment to the mission, devotion, comradeship and a courageous spirit.

We remember them when we are on an operation in crowded alleyways, or during training drills, in preparation and during execution the events of the past bob up, along with the collective experience and the lessons learned—and behind each of those there are names and faces. We remember them when we patrol Israel far and wide; we remember and know that on this hilltop, someone took his last breath, but on the slope below a community thrives. On Tuesday evening, the flag will be lifted from half-mast. Every one of its blue threads represents IDF soldiers and commanders, who died to give us all life and security in the state of Israel.

Now we’re on duty, and we have an obligation to fortify the nation’s defense and offensive capabilities. In addition to the permanent effort to defend all our borders, we must push beyond the existing boundaries, innovate and change.

The IDF is currently deployed across the country and is taking a central role in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. We are doing this as part of a national mission, out of deep solidarity and a sense of responsibility and innovation. In that spirit, we will work to improve the IDF’s capabilities to put ourselves in a position to launch stronger offensives and provide better defenses. The IDF is the defensive shield of the state of Israel, and everyone who served or is currently serving should be proud of what the country has achieved, the part the IDF has played, and his or her own role.

In the name of all IDF soldiers and officers, I salute the fallen and make the commitment that we will do everything to bring our missing and captives back home, strengthen the bereaved families, embrace them, and promise that we will do everything we can to protect Israel and its citizens.

May the memory of the fallen be a blessing.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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