By RICHARD GOLDENBERG,
Commander, JWV Capital District Council
ALBANY– The Jewish War Veterans (JWV) Capital District Council joined with family, community and a Navy Honor Guard to bring home the remains of a Jewish American sailor originally from Albany, who had been killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor 77 years ago. Navy Ensign Charles Stern, Jr., 26, was killed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. His body was identified on Sept. 24, 2018.
A half dozen JWV members joined with an honor guard contingent for the return of Stern’s remains to Albany Airport on Friday, July 19, and another eight provided funeral honors and a farewell at Stern’s funeral service on Sunday, July 21, at the Beth Emeth cemetery. He was buried in his family plot.
“It was a true privilege to accompany my comrades from Jewish War Veterans Posts 105 and 106 in honoring Ensign Charles M. Stern, who, after 77 years, was finally interred next to his parents,” said Dr. Steve Jarrett from Schenectady Post 106. Jarrett participated in both ceremonial events.
Stern, a graduate of Albany High School and Dartmouth College, had joined the Navy in 1940. Stern was assigned to the battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. Stern and more than 429 other members of the crew were killed. During the next three years the Navy recovered remains from the wreck. Remains were interred in nearby cemeteries at Pearl Harbor.
Stern’s remains were among others disinterred in 2015 in an attempt to identify the Oklahoma’s unknowns. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency scientists used dental and anthropological analysis to identify Stern’s remains, along with other evidence.
JWV Eulogizes Slain Sailor
After a Navy Reserve Honor Guard presented the American colors to Stern’s niece, Joan Stern-Girgus, JWV provided a final farewell for the assembled 50 or so family members.
“His was a noble portion for he aided in the defense of his beloved land,” said Albany Post 105 Commander Fred Altman, “and all who have worn the uniform of our country are comrades forever throughout eternity. It
is a bond that death cannot remove.”
Cantor Jodi Schechtman of Congregation Beth Emeth from Albany officiated over his burial, offering both traditional Hebrew prayer and a prayer for veterans.
Awaiting His Return
Stern-Girgus said that when her uncle died his parents, her grandparents, bought a plot at the Beth Emeth cemetery. They made sure there was a spot left for Stern.
“It’s been empty all this time,” Stern-Girgus said. “They put a plaque there with a service medal on it in case we were ever able to bury him.”
“It is an amazing connection for our family,” said Jordon Stern, a family relative and a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’re honored to have JWV join us for the ceremony.”
“He was very much a part of our childhood. There were pictures of him, his medals,” Stern-Girgus added. “They talked about him. Talked, hoping that he would come home. They purchased this plot next to them. That was for him if he could ever come home. And so that’s always been there; we just never thought that this would happen.”
After 77 years and with the escort of the Jewish War Veterans, Ensign Charles Stern is finally with his family.”Welcome home Ensign Charles M. Stern, Jr. rest in peace,” Jarrett said.