Members of the Fairfax, VA Post 177/17th District Honor Guard with retired Navy Chaplain Harold Robinson pose with the plaque that will soon adorn an Arlington National Cemetery monument to fallen Jewish chaplains. Photo by Craig Roberts

Jewish Chaplains Memorial dedication set

During a ceremony on Oct. 11, at the Hart Senate Office building in Washington, D.C., an American Legion honor guard from the Department of Virginia helped welcome home the national monument to fallen Jewish military chaplains that has been on tour. Five Legionnaires opened the ceremony with a posting of the U.S. flag.

On display during the ceremony was the bronze plaque that will be affixed to a seven-foot stone, paying tribute to 14 Jewish chaplains who died on active duty from World War II through the Vietnam War era. The plaque has just completed a multi-city exhibit tour, designed to educate the public about the sacrifices of military clergy, especially those of the Jewish faith.

Ground has already been broken atop Arlington National Cemetery's Chaplains Hill for the new monument. The official dedication of the remembrance stone and plaque is set for Oct. 24. The Jewish chaplains monument will join long-standing ones dedicated to the memories of Roman Catholic, Protestant and World War I service clergymen.

The Department of Virginia's honor guard participation in the recent homecoming monument ceremony was fitting since it was a Sons of The American Legion member, Ken Kraetzer, who initiated the campaign to create the monument.

On a visit to Arlington, Kraetzer, a Catholic, 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 a torpedoed Army transport ship in World War II after the chaplains sacrificed their own life jackets to aid other passengers on the sinking vessel.

"I called the Jewish War Veterans after discovering that (Goode was not recognized at the cemetery)," Kraetzer said, "and they put me in touch with Jewish chaplain Rear Admiral. Harold Robinson. I like to say we have been on a nearly three-year mission ever since." The campaign to create the new stone and plaque ultimately required an act of Congress.

Those present from the Department of Virginia's honor guard at the ceremony included Robert B. Sussan, 17th District vice commander; John W. Price, 17th District sergeant-at-arms; and Post 177 members Michael W. Cogburn, William J. Anderson and Jeffrey R. White.

A resolution endorsing the new monument was adopted this past August during The American Legion's national convention in Minneapolis.