The Jewish War Veterans of the USA Foundation honored Medal of Honor Recipients on Saturday, February 14, 2015 in Arlington, VA. At this Medal of Honor Celebration, there was also another emphasis: honoring those who have chosen to serve their country, and those who are our future.
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 night included the U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” which played patriotic tunes during the meet-and-greet cocktail hour and the Color Guard, which performed the patriotic opening of the evening’s program. There was also a surprise performance by the West Point Glee Club, which is comprised of cadets who currently attend the military academy, and the Alumni Glee Club.
The Glee Club performances held special significance for many in the audience as the familiar refrains of military melodies soared through the room. In a particularly meaningful moment, eight World War II veterans in the audience stood at attention while the singers performed a tune from their days in service.
More than one hundred members of the Jewish War Veterans and the Ladies Auxiliary were also in attendance for this special evening, with many of the JWV Departments sponsoring seats. Four generations of veterans were together that night, ranging from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proceeds raised will help the JWV Foundation fulfill its mission of assisting and promoting the causes of all veterans and military personnel. Special thanks to Chairman Robert Zweiman and co-chairman PNC David Magidson and PNC Dr. Robert Pickard for all their hard work and dedication to ensure the evening was a success.
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.
Jacobs humorously poked at his height with anecdotes from his time at NBC before sharing a few thoughts about his friend and fellow Medal of Honor Recipient, Tibor Rubin, who was unable to attend the event. Col. Jacobs reminisced about how he attended the ceremony when Rubin received the Medal, and spoke to a man from Rubin’s unit in Korea. Through his tears, the man told Jacobs that Rubin “saved my life.”
Col. Jacobs also shared some words of wisdom regarding the impact the army has had on his life. “I thought that everyone whose lucky enough to live in this free country should join the service…I thought the mission was important, but I love the people,” he explained. “They know and understand what service and sacrifice is all about,” he continued, “and it makes me feel much better to be around people who have worn the uniform.”
When Lt. Gen. Foley took the podium, he commented on how he and Jacobs have known each other for over 50 years, noting “I have great admiration not just for what he did in Vietnam, but what he has done since.”
Foley recounted his experiences on his first trips to Israel in December 2012 and October 2013. He prayed at the Western Wall, visited the Golan Heights, heard a special briefing at the Army Corps museum, traveled to Tel Aviv, and climbed the desert fortress of Masada. The story of Masada has become one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols as the place where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood. “What a noble ending, to choose death over slavery,” Foley observed.
Both Foley and Jacobs emphasized the importance of supporting the United States and its military.
Jacobs reminded the audience that it is integral to recognize what we owe to each other, because we also recognize what’s important as a whole. “It is our obligation not just to serve but to inculcate in our children those things that made us free and that drove us to support freedom for us and for our allies,” he emphasized. Foley described the lesson he learned from Masada, that “the strength of character that a nation needs in time of war must be fostered in a time of peace.”
The evening had an impact on all who attended, with many commenting on how much they enjoyed the event. But perhaps the biggest impact was on active duty personnel. In an email to JWV, Command Sergeant Major Michael Sutterfield wrote “I am proud that previous generations consider my current Soldiers as worthy of their honor.” He continued, “While today’s veterans encounter several different hardships that are historically new to the battlefield, we are very grateful to continue to carry the colors forward that you, our predecessors, set the conditions for and enable us to drive forward.”