VA NY Harbor Healthcare System
From Omaha Beach to the frontline of COVID
NEW YORK - Over the weekend, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System had the privilege of administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to 100-year-old WWII Veteran and Holocaust survivor Edmund “Eddie” Rosenblum.
Arriving at the Manhattan Campus on a cold, gloomy Sunday afternoon, Edmund was accompanied by his eldest son, his daughter-in-law, a nursing attendant, a wealth of stories, and a sunny disposition.
As the vaccination center’s staff checked him in for his appointment, a VA nurse noticed his WWII Veteran hat and – being mindful of physical distancing – leaned in to give Edmund an elbow-bump along with a “thank you for your service.”
Edmund replied with a crisp salute and a twinkle in his bright blue eyes.
While waiting for the pharmacy to deliver the vaccine, Edmund told us about growing up in Vienna, Austria, during the 1920’s and 30’s.
When Hitler came to power and banned Jews from attending higher education, Edmund was forced to drop out of school at 14 years of age and pick up his father’s trade as a tailor.
His family hid until they could escape to the United States, where Edmund arrived penniless at 19 years old.
He was drafted into the Army three years after Pearl Harbor and served proudly till his honorable discharge in 1946.
His duties varied throughout his time in service. While in the European Theater, Edmund was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps where his soldiers leaned on his tailoring skills to preserve uniforms as well as his fluency in German.
Edmund arrived Omaha Beach two weeks after D-Day, and eventually made his way to the Pacific Theater where his tailoring skills came in handy once again: he sewed a Philippine-American flag for the island’s provisional government after liberation from Japan, which earned him an Army Commendation Ribbon.
While waiting for the vaccine to arrive, Edmund’s son, Dr. Harvey Rosenblum, showed me a picture book with Edmund’s awards, event brochures, and a citation from Adelphi University.
“My father has always been a lifelong believer in education. In 2006, at 86 years old, he marched with the graduating class of Adelphi University in Garden City, New York and was honored with a lifelong learner certificate. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the keynote speaker that year,” Harvey said while showing me an autographed picture of the former First Lady.
The arrival of the pharmacy technician with the vaccine broke our story bound trance.
Edmund’s family helped him stand from his wheelchair and carefully remove his jacket as the nurse asked Harvey whether he has any allergies or if he’s had a vaccine in the last two weeks.
As the shot went into Edmund’s arm, he winked at me with a smile.
The nurse filled out his vaccination card and gave him instructions for his follow-up appointment as his family helped him put his jacket back on.
Always the lifelong learner, Edmund was adamant that he schedule his follow-up appointment in his iPhone calendar.
“We can’t thank you and the staff of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System enough for taking care of my father. He means the world to us and we are so proud of him,” Harvey said.