By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
April 20, 2009 - The top U.S. military officer called on servicemembers to use Holocaust Remembrance Day observances this week as an opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities of life, reminding them that the decisions they make matter. "The story of the Holocaust, however ghastly, offers us an opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities in life," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a message being aired on the Pentagon Channel.
"It's a chance to remember that what we do – or choose not to do – really matters," he said.
Mullen pointed to the example of Tibor Rubin, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who went on to join the U.S. Army and earn the Medal of Honor for actions during the Korean War.
"He lost his family to the Nazis and later managed to survive his own ordeal in a concentration camp," Mullen said, referring to Rubin's two-year confinement at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, before he was liberated by American troops at age 15.
"After liberation, he became an American soldier and fought for his new country in the Korean War," Mullen said.
A private first class, Rubin was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division's 8th Regiment, where records show an anti-Semitic noncommissioned officer often assigned him to the most dangerous missions.
For his acts of bravery, including single-handedly defending a hill against North Korean soldiers for 24 hours so his company could safely retreat, Rubin was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor. The paperwork was never processed – again, because his bigoted NCO ignored orders to submit it, records show.
Rubin was taken prisoner again, this time by Chinese troops in 1950. He spent 30 months in another prisoner-of-war camp, helping to sustain his fellow prisoners as they began to give up hope.
As Mullen noted in his Holocaust Remembrance Day message, Rubin never learned to hate. "If you feel hate for your fellow man, you'll only hurt yourself," Mullen said, quoting Rubin.
Rubin's actions in Korea finally received their long-overdue recognition when President George W. Bush presented him the Medal of Honor on Sept. 23, 2005 -- more than 55 years after the fact.
"But the honor is ours to have had him in our ranks," Mullen said of Rubin.
The chairman encouraged servicemembers to recognize Rubin and others like him as they observe Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"As we pause to remember the 6 million who perished, let us also pause to celebrate the lives of those who survived -- who went on to teach us the great responsibility of life itself," he said. "It matters what we do."
Communities throughout the United States, Europe and Israel began commemorating the 44th Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday, leading up to major observances around the world tomorrow.