By Rachael Rifkin
In the Rubin household, performing mitzvahs, or acts of kindness, was not only an important part of Judaism, but an essential way of life. Tibor “Ted” Rubin’s life is surely a testament to his upbringing. As a Holocaust survivor, Korean War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, he has both benefited from and performed many good deeds.
On Thursday, March 18, the Courtyard Care Center, 1880 Dawson Ave. in Signal Hill, where he is currently a patient, celebrated his achievements with a video of his Medal of Honor ceremony, award presentations from local and state government officials, and a brief speech from the guest of honor.
In attendance were Signal Hill Vice Mayor Larry Forester, field representatives for Congresswoman Laura Richardson and Congressman Darrell Issa, army and military personnel, Courtyard staff and patients, friends, and Rubin’s daughter and son. The event began with a video of Rubin’s Medal of Honor ceremony.
On September 23, 2005, President George W. Bush honored Rubin with the medal for going above and beyond the call of duty, explaining that “Rubin’s many acts of courage during the Korean War saved the lives of hundreds of his fellow soldiers.” President Bush gave an overview of Rubin’s background as well. Born in Hungary in 1929, Ted was taken to Mauthausen at the age of 13. His parents and one of his sisters died in concentration camps. He survived 14 months in the camp, and was liberated by U.S. Army troops on May 5, 1945. The liberators left a deep impression on Rubin, and he vowed to enlist in the army if he ever made it to the U.S.
Rubin immigrated to the U.S. and became a butcher. True to his word, he enlisted in the Army, and on February 13, 1950, deployed to Korea as a part of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Two particular acts of bravery in combat stick out.
“One night near the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin had been assigned to hold a hill that was essential to the 3rd Battalion safe withdrawal. For 24 hours this lone rifleman would defend the hill against an overwhelming number of North Korean forces. By his actions Corporal Rubin inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, saved the lives of countless soldiers, and gave the unit time to withdraw,” said President Bush in his speech.
Bush went on to describe a second incident.
“When Corporal Rubin’s battalion found itself ambushed by thousands of Chinese troops, the Americans’ firepower soon dwindled to a single machine gun. The weapon was in an exposed position and three soldiers had already died manning it. That was when Corporal Rubin stepped forward. He fought until his ammunition was gone… He risked his life that day to protect his fellow American soldiers, and his heroism helped many of them escape.” said Bush.
His acts of valor did not end on the battlefield. Badly injured, he was captured and sent to a POW camp for 30 months. His time in Mauthausen had helped make him resourceful and strong. He put those skills to use at the POW camp, often stealing food rations from the guard under the cloak of night. He shared the food with the other prisoners, nursed the sick back to health, and kept morale up. When the Chinese offered to send him back to his native Hungary, he refused, preferring to stay with his fellow soldiers. His thoughtful actions saved the lives of 40 soldiers.
Rubin’s army service ended on July 20, 1953, and he became a U.S. citizen sometime between 1953 and 1954. After the war he moved to Long Beach, married a woman named Yvonne and had two children, Frank and Rosie. Unable to continue on as a butcher due to his war injuries, Rubin worked at a liquor store owned by his brother, Emery Rubin, and later became a partner. Rubin and his family eventually settled in Garden Grove.
After the video, Rubin was presented with three awards. Forester gave him a Statement of Proclamation from Signal Hill. A representative from Congresswoman Laura Richardson’s office presented him with Congressional Recognition. She also had a flag flown over the capital for him that day. Then a representative from Issa’s office presented him with a Congressional Record of his achievements.
When it finally came time for Rubin to speak, it was difficult for him to get any words out. “I want to thank everyone. I usually talk a lot, but this has brought a lot of memories back,” said Rubin.
His daughter Rosie took over.
“I want to thank Courtyard Care for all their help during his stay. They have treated him wonderfully,” said Rosie. “I also want to make a point of saying that my dad isn’t a hero. He acted the way he did because that is the kind of man he is. His mother always told him that helping people, performing mitzvahs, is something that people should do naturally. He’s just a regular man who did things that he knew he should do.”