JWVF has held several events designed to act as both a fundraiser and honor key groups that have a significant place in American memory.
In 2015, we honored Jewish, and all, Medal of Honor Recipients. At this Celebration, there was also another emphasis: honoring those who have chosen to serve their country, and those who are our future. During dinner, videos of Medal of Honor recipients Colonel Jack Jacobs, Corporal Tibor Rubin, and Lieutenant General Robert Foley were shown, courtesy of the Medal of Honor Foundation. The crowd watched in hushed silence as the Recipients described their war experiences. Following the videos, Colonel Jacobs, an NBC News military analyst, and Lieutenant General Foley, the Director of Army Emergency Relief, each offered entertaining remarks during the keynote address.
Over fifty seats were donated by generous benefactors so that active duty military personnel and their guests could attend in their stead. Also in attendance were members of the Military Coalition, including representatives from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Air Force Sergeants Association, Marine Corps Reserve Association, National Guard Association of the United States, and Vietnam Veterans of America.
The following year we held a celebration to thank the liberators of the Nazi concentration camps, many of whom were members of the Jewish War Veterans. As Jews who freed the remainder of the European Jewish population from the Nazis, many connected with Holocaust survivors on a much deeper level. They spoke Yiddish or German to them, they led Jewish services in the centers of the camps, and they offered a sense of comfort and kindness the Jews had not seen for many years.
Major General Sidney Shachnow, USA (Ret.), was our keynote speaker. The General is a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Massachusetts in 1950 and joined the US Army after high school, and later became the commanding officer of the Green Berets.
In 2017, the event took a more solemn tone as we remembered our fallen heroes and the Gold Star families they left behind.
We are honored that Mrs. Karen Kelly was our keynote speaker. Her son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol in 2010. Mrs. Kelly and her husband, Secretary of Homeland Security General John F. Kelly, chose to channel their grief into something positive to honor their son. A Gold Star family, they created the First Lieutenant Robert Kelly Memorial Scholarship in 2011.
She spoke about her own experiences growing up in a military family, marrying a member of the military, and raising a family that moved constantly due to relocations and deployments. She described the feeling becoming the base mother when the units were deployed, how the families would work together, meet regularly, and offer support. Her descriptions of her son and his love of country resonated with everyone in the room, many of whom had lost a loved one during war.
We are grateful that for all three events, seats were generously donated for local active duty personnel to attend.