WASHINGTON – Braving frigid weather, about 75 Jewish war veterans rallied outside the U.S. Postal Service Friday, demanding a commemorative stamp in honor of their organization’s 100th anniversary.
“We want the U.S. to recognize our service,” said Jerry Gillman, a member of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A and a Silver Spring resident.
“We shouldn’t even have to be out here,” added Gillman, who served in Europe in World War II. “We deserve a stamp because we’re the oldest veterans’ organization in the country.”
The group, which numbers nearly 60,000 nationwide, was formed in 1896 after an inaccurate statement by Mark Twain claiming that no Jews fought in the Civil War. In fact, three of those serving earned congressional medals of honor, members said.
Three years ago, JWV began to push for a commemorative stamp by submitting a request to the U.S. Postal Service. In response, Postmaster General Marvin Runyon asked the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to consider a stamp on their behalf.
The 15-member committee, which includes actor Karl Malden and former Notre Dame basketball coach Richard “Digger” Phelps, unanimously recommended against the request.
The committee based its decision on a policy not to issue stamps in honor of religious organizations or individuals. Members also decided it was more appropriate to issue a stamp honoring all veterans rather than a single group, said postal spokesman Robin Wright.
However, Wright acknowledged that commemorative stamps have been issued on behalf of several other veterans’ groups, including the Veterans Administration, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Wright said Runyon stands by the committee’s recommendation.
But the veterans’ group has vowed to continue lobbying Congress – which chartered the group in 1984 – and putting pressure on Runyon.
“Runyon has the authority to issue a stamp,” said Bob Zweiman, former JWV national commander and chairman of its 100th anniversary commission. Zweiman said JWV will continue writing letters and contacting congressmen until a stamp is issued.
Last year, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution submitted by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, and others in support of a JWV postage stamp. A concurrent resolution, offered by Rep. James Talent, a Missouri Republican and the son of a JWV member, did not make it out of a House committee.
David Hymes, JWV national commander, said Runyon and the committee “believe that they know better than the entire U.S. Senate” whether or not to issue a stamp.
Jack Clark, vice president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said a stamp for JWV is long overdue.
“This stamp would honor not only Jewish veterans, it would honor all veterans,” he said.