In 1981, the opportunity arose for me to meet Alfred Rubin of Naperville, IL—but who had an interesting connection to South Dakota—while in Washington working on the creation of a new organization called JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs). After reading my nametag Al asked, “Have you ever met Merton Glover?” I replied, “Sure have, he is the Republican Party County Chairman for Fall River County, one of the counties in my county district chairmanship.” Al responded, “He is quite a special person, be sure to give him my best regards the next time you see him.”
At a large Republican dinner where the honoree was U.S. Senator James Abdnor, seeing Merton across the room, there was an opportunity to give him Al Rubin’s regards. When I did Mert stopped in his tracks and, with that marvelous cowboy voice of his, asked, “Where did you meet that SOB?” Only, he didn’t use the initials.
When told that it was at a meeting in Washington, he said, “I’ve just got to tell you about him, it’s a fantastic story.”
“Oh, tell me,” was my reply.
“Well, I was stationed at Fort Meade with the Forth Cavalry when we learned that we were about to get a new ‘Jew Lieutenant’ from some big New York University,” he said.
“That’s interesting Mert, let’s sit down and talk about it sometime.”
“Oh no, I’ve got to tell you the whole story, it is something fantastic.”
By that time our conversation was attracting a lot of attention and the story didn’t seem like the sort of thing that I wanted to hear the rest of—a beginning like that is usually an indication that something negative and stereotypical will follow.
Mert insisted, again, that he tell me the story right then and continued, “Well, he was just what we thought he was, a Jew from the East Coast somewhere. Here he was in the Calvary and he didn’t know which end of the horse ate and which end the poop came out of.”
There was no polite way to move away from the telling of the story.
Mert said, “We drew straws and I lost, so I was going to be his Corporal and driver. Now don’t get me wrong, while he wasn’t much of a practical man like most South Dakotans, he was smarter than the dickens. (Expletive), he could think well on his feet and he was a thoughtful leader, much to our surprise.”
All efforts to break away were met with Mert’s insistence on telling me the story.
“When we were in Germany, he went AWOL from the hospital five times so that he could come back to the unit even though he wasn’t completely recovered from his wounds—and we needed him. After the fifth time, all of us NCOs and most of the troop got together because we realized that he would never survive another serious injury. We all agreed that the next time we got into a firefight, the two guys closest to the Lieutenant would put themselves between him and the Germans.”
Mert was right, it was a fantastic story. Where else except in these United States would a large group of people, some of them prejudice out of ignorance, agree to risk their own lives to save the life of someone whom they once hated because of what they had heard about his race or ethnicity?
If any of you want a little more information about Al, click here for a fascinating article and click here for a poem. It is an unusual story about a town that had three Silver Star recipients and one Distinguished Flying Cross recipient during the Second World War.