4/5/2018 9:00:00 AM FOUR CHAPLAINS AWARD Vet honored for advocacy work
BY EMILY BENSON STAFF WRITER
Bob Becker Jr. may be retired, but he is still putting in countless hours of work for local veterans.
The parishioner of St. Luke's Church in Schenectady has a packed schedule. Between traveling from the State Capitol in Albany and to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Mr. Becker has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to advocating on behalf of veterans.
"I carry a calendar with me, because I've got to remember everything I've got to do," he told The Evangelist.
Mr. Becker was recently recognized for his dedication to veterans, receiving the Four Chaplains Brotherhood award from Albany Post 105 of the Jewish War Veterans.
Though he said he was "honored," he added that his work is a team effort with members of several organizations he chairs or serves, including the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations, Amvets and the Marine Corps League.
"I work to get legislation passed, but just because I'm the director doesn't mean I do it all. I'm really proud of my team," Mr. Becker explained.
Rev. Dominic Isopo, pastor of St. Luke's parish, attended the award ceremony. He said that Mr. Becker chose not to focus on himself at the event, but humbly thanked others for their hard work for the veteran community.
"He took none of the credit. That is so typical [of] Bob," said Father Isopo.
It wasn't a surprise to the pastor that Mr. Becker received the award: He's "the type of guy [that,] when you need something, he'll do it."
Albany Post 105 of the Jewish War Veterans has been honoring a member of the community with this award since 1966. The award, bestowed regardless of the recipient's faith, is named for four chaplains who gave their lives to help others during the sinking of their ship, the S.S. Dorchester, in 1943 during World War II.
The ship was struck by a German torpedo off the coast of Greenland, and the chaplains -- a Methodist minister, a rabbi, a Catholic priest and a Dutch Reformed minister -- helped soldiers into lifeboats and then gave up their own life jackets so that others could be saved.
The Four Chaplains award is given to someone who embodies the same principle of selfless sacrifice in helping others. Father Isopo described Mr. Becker as "low-key. He's very quiet and doesn't boast about anything that he's done."
Soldier and advocate
A native of Schenectady, Mr. Becker attended Niskayuna High School and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as a supply chief and platoon sergeant in the Second Marine Division between 1960 and 1966. He later joined the USMC Reserve.
Mr. Becker began doing work for veterans through the Marine Corps League in 1969. He retired as a first sergeant in 1984, but continued helping veterans through various organizations. He's also a retired supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service.
Now, Mr. Becker says he spends a lot of time talking with local politicians, lobbying for support on bills that will help veterans. He travels to Washington once or twice a year and says he learns something new every time.
"I tell them what the issues are, and I say what I think we should do" to help vets who have faithfully served their country, he said. "We're just going to keep trying."
On his latest trip to D.C. as a representative of Amvets, Mr. Becker spoke to 24 New York State Congressional representatives. He advocated on bills like the Senate's S5158, which would help veterans obtain affordable housing; the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 to fund research into diseases in veterans from exposure to herbicidal agents in Vietnam; and House bill HR411, which focuses on suicide prevention among veterans.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Mr. Becker says focusing on veterans' mental health is extremely important right now.
In his free time, Mr. Becker is the head usher at the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Luke's. He also loves golfing and spending time with his three children and three granddaughters. He visits his daughter, Debbie, every Sunday to drop off coupons he collects throughout the week: "She's a coupon fanatic."
As for his advocacy for veterans, Mr. Becker said he was honored to receive an award from Albany Post 105. "I work with the Jewish war vets," he noted. "Religion doesn't have any barrier in working as a team. We're brothers and sisters."
He'll continue his advocacy for as long as possible. "If I can help one veteran in any aspect of his life, then that's it: I did my mission."