My mind swept back 25 years this week when I heard that the Israeli government had decided to award Campaign Medals to Israel Defense Force soldiers who served in Lebanon, as well as to some civilians, including posthumously to Mary Feiner.

I never even knew her name was MaryI never even knew her name Feiner. To me and thousands of other soldiers’ mothers, she was “Doda Mary”—the link between us and our young sons serving in Lebanon in what has been described as the messiest of Israel’s campaigns.

Our son chose to serve in “Hesder,” a combination of yeshivah and army service. For the years of his army service, we never went away for Shabbat in case he arrived unexpectedly on Friday afternoon. Those things happened in pre-cell phone days when army bases had, at the most, one public telephone, and there was always a long line of boys waiting to call home.

Like countless other soldiers’ mothers before and after me, I would pretend to have no expectations of seeing our son for Shabbat. Nevertheless, I cooked his favorite foods week after week, keeping an ear out for his key in the lock and praying. Most weeks, he never got to taste them.

Then, in 1995, he was sent to serve in Lebanon, as were thousands of soldiers in those days. For parents, it was a period of little sleep and lots of praying. Once those boys left the Israeli border, there was no more communication of any sort—just the daily tally of how many soldiers had been killed while serving in this security zone.

The Israeli mail system then was even worse than it is today. Still, we wrote to him regularly and sent care packages with his favorite noshes, always hoping that the cake wasn’t too stale and the chocolate not totally melted by the time it eventually found its way to his army base.

On his home visits, he never talked about what he did there. “Mom, have you got a pen and paper?”But I often got a glimpse when he had his photos developed (remember those days?) and if I listened in on his telephone conversations with his army buddies. Not that that helped a great deal, as soldiers have a language all of their own which consists of 90 percent acronyms, which are totally meaningless to the uninitiated.

One day, he called from the last public call box before Lebanon.

“Mom, have you got a pen and paper? I want to dictate something to you.”

What was this important message he was about to impart? His last will and testament, G‑d forbid!

“Mom, I want to give you a name and P.O. box number to send my mail.”

Phew, that sounded better! So the army had a new way of delivering mail. I hoped it was an improvement on the current one.

“There’s this amazing woman,She sounded like the most kind-hearted magician Mom, and she takes care of all the soldiers. Her name’s ‘Doda (Aunty) Mary,’ and she has a kiosk on the border. She told us to give our mothers her mailbox number, and she receives all our mail and divides it up into all the different places where we’re serving and gets it all to us long before the army would.”

She sounded like the most kind-hearted magician I had ever heard of.

“Oh, and Mom, if anything ever happens … you know … if there’s an incident or something … here’s her phone number. She’ll know and be able to tell you I’m OK (please, G‑d) before you’ll ever hear from me or the army.”

The next day, a Thursday, we put together a box full of goodies and sent it off. It was on our son’s bed waiting for him when he came in from the day’s “activities” to get ready for Shabbat the next day.

I loved Doda Mary from that moment onwards.

Several years ago, I discovered that she had died of cancer in 2012. I had lost my chance to thank her in this world.

Doda Mary personified the quality of ve’ahavta le’reacha kamocha, “love your neighbour as yourself,” one of the most important and basic mitzvot in the Torah. Her actions and thoughts were always on how she could help others. We can try to emulate her, even in some small way, by aiming for one thing we can do to make someone else's life easier or happier.

Her posthumous award and recognition by the Israeli government and IDF is probably nothing compared to the love and gratitude that’s still felt by thousands of former soldiers and their parents. In a time of stress and worry over our son’s welfare, this one woman—an aunt to us all—offered light in our world, a positive presence we could depend on.

Yehi Zichra Baruch. May her memory be for a blessing.