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Santa Rosa’s Bob Raful Named Veteran of the Year


Santa Rosa’s Bob Raful
named Veteran of the Year

by Tish Levee

On June 24th, Assembly member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) honored Lt. Colonel Robert Raful, USAF (Ret.), saying, “Lt. Colonel Raful had a long and distinguished military career and is much deserving of this recognition. [He] is a role model, not only for Veterans, but for all of us. His dedication to nation, service, family, and community is extraordinary.”

In nearly 27 years of active military duty, Bob Raful rose from a private in Patton’s Army to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the US Air Force. Early on he helped form a regimental band, in which he played saxophone. When his entire Regiment landed at Omaha Beach in France, three months after D-Day, there was no need for a regimental band, so it was split up, and ten band members, including Bob, were assigned as a grave registration team, picking up bodies of fallen soldiers from the battlefield to send them for burial in the US. By December his regiment was trapped in Luxembourg at the Battle of the Bulge.

Bob stayed in Europe until the early 1946. While there, two important things happened. The first was that his company became the guards of the famous Austrian Lipizzaner stallions, a great favorite of Gen. Patton. The other, much more important, was his company deployed soon after that to a small town near Volary in what today is the Czech Republic. There, while the re-formed regimental band was playing, Bob met a group of Holocaust survivors, which included his future wife, Susy—Klara Szussana Taubner. He was sorting out some music, when he was told that there were “some Jewish girls who spoke English” at the concert. He wrote home about meeting Susy that night, while she told her older sister she planned to marry him. After he returned to the States, Bob and Susy wrote frequently, and in 1947 Susy came to New York City where she and Bob were married on June 20, 1947.  They have two children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

After the war ended, Raful stayed in the Reserves; when the Korean Conflict began, he was called back to active duty. He’d graduated from UC Berkeley and accepted a commission in the new Air Force as a personnel officer.

After the truce, he had an opportunity to stay in the Air Force, as a Captain. Later the Air Force sent him to Syracuse University for a Master’s Degree, and then to the Pentagon, where he was responsible for deploying personnel for new weapons systems.

In 1961, President Kennedy’s new Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg, encouraged the military to be more aware of America’s organized labor movement. As a result, Raful designed the initial course to teach academy students the importance of understanding the labor movement and how it affected the military’s mission. He taught the first-ever class in labor relations at the Air Force Academy, where he stayed for six years. The three years before his retirement in 1970, he was the chief labor relations officer for the US Air Force at the Pentagon.

In 1990, he and Susy moved to Santa Rosa and joined Congregation Beth Ami, where he has been active ever since.