Last night at the invitation of my friend Lt. Col. Marc Breslow I was honored to say a few words at the Holiday Dining Out of the California State Military Reserve. At my table was Brigadier General Jack Hagan who early on mentioned to me that the older gentleman across the way was very special indeed, and as soon as I saw the Medal of Honor ribbon around Tibor Rubin’s neck I knew why, but I didn’t know the story behind Mr. Rubin’s honor.
As much as the music and the festivities allowed, I got a few details out of Mr. Rubin. He had survived 14 months as a teenager in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, and as soon as he got to America, tried and eventually succeeded in enlisting in the Army as a way of saying thank you to the country that had liberated him. He was captured in North Korea and made a POW for 30 months, during which time he repeatedly broke out of and returned back into the camp with food for his fellow POWs. His Medal of Honor citation tells the rest of the story. General Hagan summarized it for the crowd of military professionals and their spouses and dates who volunteer hundreds of hours every year to support the California National Guard, and when the general concluded with a simple statement that he wasn’t conveying niceties, just the truth about Mr. Rubin, a prolonged standing ovation ensured: Selfless public servants honoring a courageous, selfless soldier.
I have heard of many astonishing and inspiring stories of how heroes survived various hells. I have never heard of someone surviving both a Nazi concentration camp and a North Korean prisoner of war camp, and not merely surviving, but demonstrating courage of the highest order in so doing.
Mr. Rubin will be attending the inauguration of the new president, along with many other Medal of Honor recipients. This is an excellent tradition, one that serves to remind the country and the incoming president of the quality of the men and women he will lead as Commander-in-Chief.
Perhaps Mr. Rubin’s story will prompt a year-end show of support for The Semper Fi Fund, Soldiers Angels, Fisher House, The United Warrior Survivors Foundation, or any of the many fine organizations that serve our nation’s military and their families. There are new Tibor Rubins on the fields of Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti and across the globe this Christmas and New Year’s. Be sure to remember them as we celebrate our families and our freedoms.