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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Senate should correct old discrimination practices against Jewish soldiers

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | 2:35 p.m. CDT; updated 4:34 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 20, 2011

It will come too late for Sgt. William Shemin. In fact, it's legislation that won't directly affect any of the thousands of Jewish soldiers who fought in World War I.

That doesn't make the William Shemin World War I Veterans Act any less important.

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., picked up where Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., left off in introducing the bill that would correct past discriminatory practices against Jewish soldiers.

The bill introduced in the Senate would require a review of Jewish World War I veterans' military records to see if any qualify for the Medal of Honor.

The bill is named after a sergeant who may have been denied military honors because he was Jewish.

The bill was introduced last year by Luetkemeyer. It authorizes the secretaries of the Army and Navy to review records of other World War I Jewish winners of the Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross to decide whether they should have received the Medal of Honor.

While it didn't get passed out of the House last year, it did this year. Blunt, McCaskill and others have now reintroduced the bill into the Senate.

Despite the fact that her father received the Distinguished Service Cross for his valorous actions in France in 1918, Elsie Shemin-Roth, of Labadie, believes that because her father was Jewish, he may have been denied the highest of all military honors.

Congress has previously required reviews of veterans who may have been overlooked. In 2001, Congress passed the Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act, which gave Jewish soldiers the opportunity to receive the Medal of Honor for their service in World War II.

The 1997 Defense Authorization Act waived restrictions and limitations so that Asian-American, American Pacific Islanders and African-American veterans' files could be reviewed to determine if they should be awarded the Medal of Honor.

We would urge the Senate to act this year on the bill. Elsie Shemin-Roth is 81 years old. She might still have an opportunity to see her country put to rest questions about past discrimination.


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