Rev. Patrick Archuleta, Sr., Chaplain at the Jacksonville, FL Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial, Chapel of the High Speed Pass, was the Keynote Speaker at the Evangel Temple Veterans for Christ Dinner. Respect, honor, heritage, and Israel was on the Chaplain’s mind as he spoke about Veterans. He shared the following inspiring and little-known facts about America’s Veterans.

When someone chooses to join the military, an oath is made so everyone will know what our country means to them, what they will do to defend America, the Constitution, and our founding values. This is a lifetime oath. This sworn commitment does not terminate when discharged from service and is honored by veterans throughout their life. The oath of enlistment was established by the Continental Congress in 1776 and can be read here.

Did you know this oath was sworn by Jewish Colonial Americans volunteering to serve in the first armed forces dating back to the Colonial Era Militias of the 13 original Colonies? We rarely learn about the heroic and distinguished service of our Jewish American Heroes electing to protect America, the Constitution, Bill of Rights and our God given rights. They dealt with antisemitism discrimination from uninformed and ill-informed Americans. Despite this injustice, Jewish Veterans have continually distinguished themselves as brave and honorable warriors in the defense of all Americans throughout our history.  Here’s a few facts:

The Jewish Veterans of America organization is the oldest established military organization in America – chartered in 1896. To give a perspective: Veterans of Foreign Wars followed 17 years later in 1913, the American Legion in 1919, and the Vietnam Veterans Association in 1978. Our Jewish Brothers and Sisters have served faithfully in the Armed Forces of America spanning over 248 years. Jews have served in every U. S. major armed conflict. Many received numerous awards and decorations for distinguished service, valor and heroism. 

American Jews served in numbers disproportionate to their small population during the Revolutionary War. Of the estimated population of 3,000, 160 Jewish Americans served in the colonial side in the conflict, including Francis Salvador, the first American Jew known to die for the cause of our independence.

Reflecting their pattern of settlement in both the northern and southern cities, American Jews served in both Union Army and the Confederate Army. Historian Donald Altschiller reports 10,000 American Jews served and some 600 were killed in battle. 9 Jewish Generals and 21 Jewish Colonels participated in the War. Judah Phillip Benjamin was the first to serve in an Executive Cabinet.

Jewish Americans served in numbers higher than their proportion of the population in World War I.  In the famous 77th Division, about a third of the Soldiers were probably recruited from New York. This Army Division fought through the entire Argonne Campaign in France. Its units comprised the legendary “Lost Battalion” of the Argonne. “Sgt Ben Kaufman was awarded the Medal of Honor in the fighting to relieve the Lost Battalion, which had been surrounded by German forces. William Shemin sprinted across a battlefield to pull wounded comrades to safety three times. The 19-year-old then took over command of his unit and led it to safety. Shemin was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

World War ll is known to have produced our country greatest generation of veterans. Approximately 500,000 Jewish Americans served in various Branches of the U.S. Armed Services. Roughly 52,000 of these Americans received U.S. military awards and decorations – many for valor in combat. Author Solomon Grayzel reports more than a million Jews from various countries were officially enrolled in the fighting forces of the Allies.

The highest-ranking Jewish American killed during World War II was M/Gen. Maurice Rose, the grandson of a Rabbi. Rose also served in World War I. General Rose was described in the Third Armed Division official history as being over 6ft tall, erect, dark haired. He was firm and prompt of decision, brooking no interference by man, events or conditions to destroy the enemy. General Rose reminds us of some Israel Defense Force Generals in the news.

Also in World War ll, was a Rabbi, Army Lt. Alexander Goode, one of the four military “Immortal Chaplains” who sacrificed their lives to save other soldiers. Rabbi Goode and three other Chaplains, a Methodist Minister, a Dutch Reformed Minister and a Catholic Priest, helped to evacuate the troop transport Dorchester when hit by a U-Boat off the coast of Newfoundland in February 1943.  When they ran out of life jackets, the four Chaplains gave up their own life jacket to save other troops. The four men of God sang and prayed as they went down with the ship.

Holocaust Survivor Tibor Rubin immigrated to the 1948. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Korean War as an Army Corporal combatant and Prisoner of War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor 57 years later in 2005.

In Vietnam War, Jewish American USAF Airman John Levitow was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on board a Douglas AC-47 Spooky Gunship of the Third Special Operations Squadron on February 24, 1969. Airman Levitow was subsequently promoted to Sergeant and completed his enlistment with the Air Force, serving from 1966-1970. In recognition of his heroic actions, the USAF Non-commissioned Officer Academies have named their most prestigious award for scholarship and leadership in his honor. 

40 years ago on October 23,1983, the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon was bombed by terrorists. Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff eye-witness report of the bombing had historical significance for two reasons. First, four days after the attack, White House staff visited the scene of the attack and asked the Rabbi to write a report for President Reagan. Rabbi Resnicoff was in Beirut to conduct a memorial service for a Marine who was shot by a sniper. He did not return to his ship as planned because it was Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, so he ended up being on the scene the morning of the attack. When Reagan received the report, he decided to use it as his keynote speech to 20,000 attendees of a convention led by Rev, Jerry Falwell. Rabbi David Lapp was then the Jewish Chaplaincy Welfare Board Director. He said that many Rabbis had quoted Presidents, but this may have been the first time in history that a President had quoted a Rabbi—certainly, the first time that an entire speech of a President was attributed to a Rabbi.

The second story from the aftermath of the attack was instrumental in terms of changing military polices regarding the wearing of the Yarmulke in Uniform. The religious apparel amendment allowing the yarmulke had previously failed twice to pass Congress. But during the rescue efforts following the bombing, Catholic Chaplain Fr. George Pucciarrali tore a piece of his camouflage uniform off to use as a makeshift yarmulke for Chaplain Resnicoff, who had discarded his yarmulke when it became blood-soaked after being used to wipe the faces of wounded Marines.  When the story was read into the Congressional record, both the Senate and House passed the Religious Apparel Amendment.

The story of the camouflage yarmulke was retold at many levels. In addition to President Reagan’s speech, another event involving a meeting between Reagan and the “American Friends of Lubavitch, during the group’s visit to the White House. Reagan recounted the Beirut story, and then asked the Rabbis to explain to him the religious meaning of the yarmulke.   Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the leader of the group, responded “Mr. President, the yarmulke to us is a sign of reverence.” Rabbi Feller, another member of the group, continued “We place the yarmulke on the very highest point of our being, on our head, the vessel of our intellect, telling ourselves and the world that there is something which is above man’s intellect: the infinite wisdom of God.”

Medals of Honor were awarded to one Jewish American in the Indian War, one in the War Between the States, one in Haiti, four in World War I, three in World War II, two in Korean War, two in Vietnam War and one in Afghanistan War. Since it was instituted there have been 3,473 recipients; at least 17 American Jews have received the Medal of Honor for their actions starting in the War Between the States through the Vietnam War. 

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 contained the William Shemin Jewish World War 1 Veterans Act directing the Pentagon to review records of the Jewish American soldiers and sailors overlooked for the Medal of Honor simply due to their faith and antisemitism in our earlier military history.

We trust you enjoyed reading Rev. Archuleta’s stories of the American Veteran’s honor and heroes. May God bless and protect America, every Veteran, every Active Duty Military and you.

Beth Heath,President
We Can Be Heroes Foundation