February 23, 2023

The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them. Proverbs 20:7


POW Staff Sergeant Lester J. (Tannenbaum) Tanner of the 106th Infantry 422 Regiment HQ Company passed away peacefully surrounded by loving family on Thursday January 12, 2023. He was 99 years “young”. 


He was also my dear friend.


I was honored to attend his memorial service in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The eulogies, by his family and friends, of his grace and goodness moved us all.


We were also moved by two young officers of the Army who presented condolences to the family on behalf of a grateful nation.


In unison they lifted our nation’s flag, drew it tight, and doubled over the flag twice with careful precision.


From the foot of the casket, one soldier folded the flag in tight triangles 13 times representing the 13 original colonies — emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution.


Only a blue field of white stars remained visible.


The soldier at the head of the casket pulled the flag close to his heart, turned, and knelt in front of the family then presented it to the next of kin.


"On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation,” the soldier said, “please accept this flag as a symbol of our deep appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”


The officer stood, saluted, and departed down the aisle. Reverence filled the room.


My friendship with Lester and his beautiful family was possible because nearly 80 years ago in a stalag near Ziegenhain Germany my father, Roddie Edmonds, stood up to the evil of a Nazi Major and proclaimed, "We are all Jews here!"


Standing with dad and Lester were nearly 1300 American GI’s, many from the 106th, all of them willing to die for one another to do what’s right for their Jewish brothers.


As a consequence, Lester and more than 200 Jewish American soldiers were saved from certain death in murderous concentration camps.


My father died in 1985 and never told me or my family about his war time experiences. Only through the providence of God leading me to Lester did I learn the true story of my father’s bravery during WWII.


At Lester’s service, family and friends talked about his seemingly ordinary life—a life full of blessings, goodness, and joy.


After fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and surviving the horrors of Stalag IXA, Lester returned to America and graduated with highest honors from Harvard law school. He married, grew a thriving practice in New York City, and helped raise accomplished children and stepchildren while loving and influencing six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Another ordinary life of extraordinary influence from the Greatest Generation—a friend and mentor to me and many others.


Like all of our 106th veterans, Lester was wise. He had elegance and grace in concert with an ease in being himself.


He knew the food he enjoyed, the activities he relished, the politics he preferred, the country he cherished, the clothes that made him comfortable, and the people he loved.


Most of all I’ll remember the values he lived.


I arrived early for Lester’s funeral. As we passed the chapel I noticed his flag draped coffin. My heart swelled with admiration for duty, honor, and country.


No other family or friends had arrived yet so the funeral director invited me to sit in his office conference room.  On the wall I immediately noticed a single black frame with the word integrity written in large black letters on white paper.


The owners of the funeral home had one value.


One driving purpose. One call to action. One requirement to their bottom line. One value above all.




It struck me like lightning. That was the same singular value that Lester lived.


If you took the expanse of his 99 years and summed up all of his values and choices in one word his life would add up to integrity.


Every value he held dear or espoused was filtered through that lofty, uncommon, nearly unachievable value we know as integrity.


He chose that value after he saw my father Roddie demonstrate fearless integrity for God, his fellow soldiers, and his country in the face of death.


Lester told me that instance when Roddie stood up for what’s right with the enemy’s gun pressed to his head was the defining moment of his life.


He said "from that day forward, I decided to live like Roddie and do what's right for others, regardless of the risk, regardless of the circumstances."




Lester, my father, and our beloved WWII Veterans all walked in integrity. They have blessed us.


That's why we love them so much. All of their lives are worth remembering and following.


The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them. Proverbs 20:7


In their honor and for the sake of those who follow us, I pray we will aspire to walk the same path of blessing.


"Your ordinary life lived well is extraordinary — even heroic. Be the Hero! " - Pastor Chris Edmonds
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