A three-year-long campaign to honor the memory of 14 special servicemembers came to a triumphant end on Oct. 24as hundreds gathered atop Arlington National Cemetery's Chaplains Hill to dedicate a new Jewish Chaplains Memorial.
The solemn two-hour ceremony in Arlington's Amphitheatre featured a dais of dignitaries, including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Congressman Jeff Miller, both from Florida and both prime movers in the effort to create the long overdue monument. The Jewish Chapel Choir from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point offered opening and closing music and a mid-ceremony interlude.
Speakers for the memorial dedication service included Schultz and Miller; the VA's Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro; U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Major General Cecil Richardson; U.S. Navy Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral Mark Tidd; and retired Navy Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Rabbi Harold Robinson. Robinson was among those most directly responsible for the memorial's creation.
Sons of The American Legion member Ken Kraetzer from New York also spoke, as it was he who initiated the campaign to have the new monument built. He told the audience that it was more than three years ago during his visit to Arlington's Chaplains Hill when he discovered that Rabbi Alexander Goode was the only member of the famed "Four Chaplains" not recognized at the national cemetery. Goode died along with three Christian chaplains on board the torpedoed Army transport ship Dorchester in World War II after they sacrificed their own life jackets to aid other passengers on the sinking vessel. Poignantly, two survivors of the Dorchester disaster were among the ceremony's audience.
"I called the Jewish War Veterans after discovering that Rabbi Goode was not recognized at the cemetery," Kraetzer said, "and they put me in touch with Admiral Robinson. We have been on a mission ever since."
The end of the mission was signaled by echoes of a Navy bugler playing "Taps" and the West Point choir singing "God Bless America." And now, nearby on Chaplains Hill, stands a stone upon which a bronze plaque is inscribed with the names of 14 Jewish chaplains who fell during service from World War II through the Vietnam War.