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VA Long Beach Healthcare System

 

About Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center

On November 15, 2016, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) presented a proposal in the House or Representatives for its members to consider. The proposal, H.R. 6323, was titled as follows: “To name the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system in Long Beach, California, the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center.”

Just 14 days later, on  November 29, the House passed the proposal and forwarded it to the Senate for its consideration. With very little deliberation, the Senate concurred and approved it and forwarded it to the White House where it landed on the President’s desk December 15, 2016. The next day, President Obama signed it into law and it became Public Law No: 114-313.  

VA Long Medical Center is now Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center. 

Medical Center in Long Beach Named for Corporal Tibor Rubin

By Michelle Spivak, VHA Office of Communication

Congressional Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients exemplify the ideals of military service, risking all to save the lives of their fellow soldiers and protect their mission. Fifteen VA Medical Centers and seven clinics carry the names of MOH recipients.  Now the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center is among them.  On May 10, 2017, a ceremony in Long Beach, CA, marked this new name and celebrated the life of the extraordinary Korean War Veteran.

Official formalities aside, the atmosphere for 400 or so attendees felt more like a family reunion.  Scores of Rubin’s family members, fellow Jewish War Veterans (JWV) and former POWs warmly greeted each other, sharing stories of the funny, generous and unassuming, “Teddy.”  Long Beach city officials and council members from Garden Grove, CA (Rubin’s adopted hometown) mingled with the Medical Center’s new Director, Walt Dannenberg, hospital staff and volunteers. Public Affairs Officer, Rich Beam, skillfully coordinated and emceed the event. 

Representing VA Secretary David Shulkin, Special Advisor Darin Selnick surprised the crowd and drew laughs with a Ted story.  Apparently Rubin tapped Selnick to play him if ever a movie was made of his life.  Selnick, it turns out, was a personal friend of Rubin’s and a fellow JWV member.  “I told Ted that wasn’t likely, as I am easily a foot taller than him.”  “No problem,” Ted remarked, “I spent a good part of the war standing in holes, so you’ll be just right.” 

The keynote speaker was U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).  Lowenthal was influential in sponsoring and advancing H.R. 6263, the bill to change the name of the hospital.  But truly, the Jewish War Veterans, represented by National Commander Carl Singer, should get the lion’s share of credit.  The “little VSO that could” sought the name change and never gave up – just as they sought the MOH for Rubin.  JWV first adopted Rubin’s cause back in 1986 when it was discovered that he’d been overlooked for numerous medals due to anti-Semitism. This began a 20-plus year journey during which JWV worked doggedly to bring Rubin’s story to the forefront.

Rubin is the only Holocaust survivor to receive the MOH.  Born in Hungary, at 13 years old Rubin was captured and imprisoned in the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp.  After 14 months, in May 5, 1945 the camp was liberated by Americans of the Third Army, 11th Armored Division.  From that moment, Rubin was determined to “pay it forward” by becoming an American GI Joe.  And, he did just that. 

He joined in February 1950.   By July 1950, Rubin, who could barely speak or understand English, was serving in Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in Korea.  On the battlefield, Rubin’s bigoted sergeant gave him the riskiest assignments at every opportunity.  Rubin met each challenge with tremendous skill and courage, earning the respect and admiration of his fellow soldiers.  His exploits, too numerous to share here, include single-handedly holding a strategic location along the Taegu-Pusan Road for more than 24 hours, killing scores of the enemy and allowing hundreds of American GIs to retreat in safety.  

Captured by the Chinese who amassed along the North Korean border in October 1950, Rubin took part in a forced death march and assisted Father Capt. Emil Kapaun (MOH) in caring for the many failing soldiers.  As a POW at a camp in Pyoktong Rubin refused numerous opportunities for release (he was still not a U.S. citizen).   Determined to care for his buddies, Rubin used his survival skills stealing food, providing medical care and moral support.  He is attributed to saving the lives of over 40 fellow POWs.

In the mid-1980s while attending a former POW-MIA convention, Rubin ran into a couple of his former Army buddies.  When they learned he had never been recognized for his heroism, they, along with the JWV, began writing letters to VSOs. 

JWV coordinated a national effort to get Rubin the medal he deserved.   They sought support from VSOs and Jewish organizations, spent hundreds of hours on Capitol Hill, sent over two million direct mail letters, collected 40,000 names on petitions, and became a gnawing pain to the team in the U.S. Army Awards Branch.  Tibor Rubin received the Medal of Honor on September 23, 2005, 55 years after the conflict.

Rubin had a special relationship with the VA hospital in Long Beach.  He received much of his health care at the facility.   He was a beloved Long Beach volunteer for 17 years, well-known for spreading Christmas cheer by distributed gifts and jokes to hospitalized patients.  It wasn’t until he passed away that it was learned he used his own funds to buy these gifts each year.  And, Rubin’s son Frank, an Air Force Veteran, works at the medical center. 

Devoted to family, country, and his fellow Veterans, Rubin’s life unfolds as an iconic story of the American dream.  His story reminds us of the impact one person can have on hundreds of lives.  Now, all Veterans and Americans can know his story and be inspired by it.

To learn more about the remarkable Cpt. Tibor Rubin, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTnmDQVMank