U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) yesterday introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Master Sergeant Rodrick “Roddie” Edmonds, a lifelong Tennessean, in recognition of his heroic actions during World War II.
As the senior noncommissioned officer responsible for 1,275 members of the Armed Forces at a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, Edmonds orchestrated a remarkable show of unity when the Nazis ordered him to identify and separate out the Jewish-American soldiers under his command. Disregarding the orders, Edmonds and all 1,275 soldiers stood together. Upon seeing the soldiers united as one, a German officer angrily shouted, “They cannot all be Jews!”, to which Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews here.” The German officer eventually turned away and left the scene. The actions taken by Edmonds saved the lives of approximately 200 Jewish-American members that day.
Senator Alexander said: “Master Sgt. Edmonds’ bold statement, ‘We are all Jews here,’ saved hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers who were captured after the Battle of the Bulge. It is one of the most inspiring stories I know. The heroism of this 20-year-old East Tennessee soldier is an example for every one of us.”
Senator Corker said: “The courage and foresight Master Sergeant Edmonds showed that day to save the lives of approximately 200 Jewish-American soldiers is truly remarkable. Even when faced with death himself, Master Sergeant Edmonds and the men under his command stood united to protect their fellow soldiers. His moral fortitude and humility serve as an example for us all, and I am pleased to join my colleagues to honor his life in this way.”
Senator Cardin said: “When I learned of Master Sergeant Edmonds’ valiant actions that saved Jewish-American prisoners of war in Germany, I was reminded of the Talmud’s teaching that, ‘whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’ At a dark time in humanity’s history, Master Sergeant Edmonds was a bright light and did what his heart told him was the right thing to do. There are families alive today who can be thankful that their very existence is due in no small part to Roddie’s service and sacrifice. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in an effort to have Congress honor this proud son of Tennessee.”
Senator Kaine said: “Master Sergeant Edmonds was a true American hero and the embodiment of everything our nation was fighting for against the Nazis in World War II. In the face of death, his enormous courage and will to stand up for humanity saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers. I’m proud and humbled to support this bipartisan effort to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.”