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White Plains Man Initiates Jewish Memorial at Arlington Cemetery

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Four years ago, Kenneth Kraetzer’s research project on veterans who attended the same Providence College as him brought the 54-year-old White Plains resident to the Arlington National Cemetery.

There, he found the three Providence Catholic alumni’s names etched on the Catholic Chaplains Memorial. A Protestant Chaplains Memorial sat nearby. However, Kraetzer couldn’t find the third memorial he expected to see erected on the hill designed to immortalize the tale of the four chaplains.

“I looked around and realized there was not a Jewish monument. So I said, ‘Gosh that’s not right. They only have three of the famous chaplains,’” said Kraetzer, a Pelham native who honors his father’s military service and advocates for servicemen and veterans as the New York State Vice President of the Sons of the American Legion Post 50.

Kraetzer said a phone call to the Jewish War Veteran office in Washington D.C. revealed that the organization wasn’t aware there was no memorial in Rabbi Alexander Goode’s honor.

Kraetzer joined Harold Robinson, the Jewish Chaplains’ Rear Admiral, in campaigning to build a third monument to fully pay tribute to Father John Washington, Reverend Clark Poling, Reverend George Fox and Goode, who gave up their life jackets and gloves and worked to rescue as many soldiers as possible after a torpedo hit the Dorechester in Feb. 1943. The four chaplains were last seen huddled together praying, before the ship sunk, propelling their heroism into an iconic tale.

The $25,000 for the bronze memorial was raised within 10 weeks, according to Kraetzer, who said Sal Moglen did an “incredible” job of securing donations from Jewish congregations and veteran’s posts.

Kraetzer, who is Catholic, and the several other organizations he teamed up with received approval from Congress and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts this May.

This Monday , the Jewish Chaplains Memorial Plaque will be unveiled in Arlington. The 14 Jewish Chaplains who have died in service since World War II have been transcribed on the bronze plaque, which was made to mirror the other chaplains’ monuments.

Kraetzer, who hosts a radio show about veterans and West Point’s football team, said he was honored to be a speaker at the dedication ceremony in the Memorial Amphitheater. “To speak there is one of the great honors you can have as someone who works in the veterans’ communities,” he said. “What makes the whole process worthwhile is the appreciation of those people who lost someone in service and knowing how much it means to them.”

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