By Chuck Ashman, Deputy Commander JWV California
Sgt. Alvin York, the legendary Medal of Honor recipient from World War I, was the first person to have a VA Medical Center bear his name in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The second, Audie Murphy, was the most decorated soldier in World War II. His name is on the VA Center in San Antonio, Texas.
And then, there were three!
On May 10, the Long Beach VA Medical Center welcomed fellow Jewish War Veterans, friends, and family of their most famous and beloved former patient and volunteer, Tibor Rubin, to rename the Center in Rubin’s honor. Lt Colonel Robert Huntly, Tibor’s nephew, spoke for the family.
Just days before that ceremony, the past president of the Medal of Honor Society, Air Force pilot and POW Leo Thorsness, passed away. He had described Tibor as a “hero’s hero” and remained mindful of how Tibor had used what he learned as a boy in a Nazi concentration camp, to help other POWs survive after he was captured.
For years, Jewish War Veterans leaders and Tibor’s relatives joined U.S. Congressman Al Lowenthal in lobbying to have the nation’s highest award presented since it had been put forth four times for Tibor’s “one man army” exploits and his dedication to others in the POW camp. The half-century delay had clearly been caused by anti-Semitism when Rubin was fighting for his country in Korea.
In early 2015, National Commander Maxwell Colon, National Executive Mathew Millen, and California Department Commander Greg Lee went to Capitol Hill only to learn that regulations prohibited naming a facility for any veteran while he was still alive. He passed away on December 5 of that year. Just over a year later, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill changing the medical center’s title.
On May 10th, 2017, with the first Jewish Secretary of Veteran Affairs in our nation’s history approved by the Senate, the name-changing ceremony took place among hundreds of friends and fans who knew and loved Tibor for his humanity and sense of humor.
National Commander Carl Singer shared the remarkable story of Tibor Rubin’s combat conquests, his POW camp leadership, and his dedication to those at the hospital where he was treated.
Darin Selnick, a former California State Commander, is the Senior Advisor to the Secretary and had brought the formal documents signed by President Obama authorizing the name change.
The hospital administration arranged for a portrait of Rubin, which was unveiled and will have a place of honor within the medical facility. Meanwhile, the JWV Department of California shared their documentary honoring Rubin and the 16 other Jewish American heroes who had received the nation’s highest honor.
As the ceremony concluded, there was a startling roar from the gray skies where the crowed was gathered under a huge tent. Some thought it was a Navy fighter jet breaking the sound barrier with its unmistakable deafening sound. Others thought the Lord was expressing appreciation for the ceremony and welcoming Tibor Rubin to his new home.
Volume 71. Number 2. Summer 2017