Larry S. Rosenthal of Hamilton Township was named Post Commander of the Year at the Jewish War Veterans’ New Jersey Department’s 80th annual convention, held recently in West Long Branch.
Under his leadership, the SPC Mark Seiden/Benjamin Kaufman Post #444, increased its membership by 28 percent in 2010 after Rosenthal became commander at the end of the previous year. After merging last year with Post 156, 444 now has 64 members; it meets on the third Thursday of the month in East Windsor.
“I made kind of a pledge to increase membership for the post,” said Rosenthal, who helped facilitate the merger. “With that it produced a strong, viable post that meets in Mercer County.”
Rosenthal, 61, began National Guard basic training at the age of 34, served for 26 years in the NJ Army National Guard, and retired in May 2009 as a sergeant first class. He is director of Hamilton’s Neighborhood Preservation Program.
Rosenthal was working in the insurance business before he joined the Army National Guard in 1983. Joining the guard “was something that I have always wanted to do since, I guess, high school on, but my parents thought getting a college education was more important,” Rosenthal told NJ Jewish News. “I was the oldest trainee going into basic training, the oldest guy in my advanced training, and the oldest guy my recruiter had ever enlisted.”
Rosenthal spent several months on active duty in Afghanistan in 2006. He was discharged that June after being diagnosed with cancer. He believes the training he underwent prior to his deployment got him “in better physical shape and probably helped me fight the cancer.”
During his stint in the National Guard, he was activated during hurricanes, snowstorms, and flooding — including spending four days on active duty during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. He served a stint as a chaplain’s assistant in the aftermath of 9/11.
Rosenthal, who joined the JWV in the late 1980s, became more active in 2008. The following year he assumed the role of commander of Post 444, named for Spc. Mark Seiden of Twin Rivers, one of the first Jewish soldiers killed in Iraq, and Benjamin Kaufman, who served in World War I and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery.
Post members range in age and experience, from two who are still on active duty to World War II veterans. “It’s a wide gamut,” Rosenthal said, noting that it’s a challenge to get younger soldiers involved because of their job commitments.
Members visit veterans’ hospitals and offer scholarships to relatives of current or past JWVers.
“Jewish War Veterans do a lot of good in different capacities,” he said, and “they’re involved in all the patriotic activities.” They participate in “stand downs,” efforts to assist homeless veterans with medical care, haircuts, clothing, food, and finding employment.
JWV also sponsors a Yom Hashoa program at Liberty State Park in Jersey City and a legislative breakfast honoring state legislators who have done “good work” for veterans, Rosenthal said.
“He’s a hands-on person,” past state commander Irwin D. Gerechoff of Deal told NJJN, noting Rosenthal’s “excellent character” and “tremendous amount of ambition.”
“He’s always volunteered to assist and help in any way he can,” Gerechoff said, calling him a “first-class mensch.”
For his part, Rosenthal continues to put in a plug for new post members. He may be reached at 609-888-0646, 609-954-8075, or LSR1950@hotmail.com.