This week, legislation was reintroduced in both houses of Congress in memory of the late Roddie Edmonds, who risked his life to save Jews during the Holocaust and is one of five Americans Yad Vashem has designated as “Righteous Among the Nations.”
After a failed attempt during the previous session, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) reintroduced the bill to the House. He informed JNS that this time was different.
“I’ve been here for a while now. I know a few more individuals, and I have a little more seniority,” he remarked. It is not a partisan matter.
Reps. According to Burchett, Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), two Jewish members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation, are among the bill’s 15 cosponsors.
The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds in 2800.
To memorialize Edmonds, who passed away in 1985 at 65, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) presented S.1230, the Senate’s version of the measure, on April 27.
“Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds embodied true American heroism in the face of indescribable evil and intimidation,” said Blackburn. “The best way to honor his deeds and legacy is to present him with Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation,” said President Obama.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark. ), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass. ), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.).
Edmonds, an ardent Christian, was taken prisoner by Nazi forces while participating in the Battle of the Bulge. He was detained in a POW camp for 100 days.
To supposedly separate Jewish captives and send them to work and death camps, German soldiers instructed them to leave the prison barracks during that period.
One thousand two hundred seventy-five troops under Edmonds stood along with Jewish detainees outside their barracks.
Edmonds refused to tell the Nazis when they held him at gunpoint that the soldiers in his company were Jewish. “We are all Jews here,” he declared, preserving the identities of up to 200 Jewish soldiers.
Since its founding in 1776, just 185 Congressional Gold Medals have been given out. Former U.S. presidents George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Harry S. Truman, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan are the recipients.
Other notables who have received the award in the past include Nelson Mandela, Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Pope John Paul II, and Winston Churchill.
Burchett and the Tennessee delegation feel strongly about Edmonds because she is a Knoxville native. A monument in Knoxville’s central business district commemorates his bravery.
The problem is significantly more complicated for Burchett. My father fought in the Second World War.
While battling the Nazis, my mother lost her brother. Burchett, a former mayor of Knox County, added, “And my family and I created a Holocaust memorial in Knoxville. I have experience with Jewish communities.
Burchett told JNS that he advises those who want to see the campaign to honor Edmonds carried out to get in touch with their local representatives.
Burchett added, “I think it’s so fitting, even though he’s no longer with us. We should honor those like him and the sacrifice they made, in my opinion.