Kansas City VA Medical Center
102-Year-Old WWII Veteran receives COVID vaccine
The Kansas City VA Medical Center (KCVA) celebrated a significant milestone in the battle against COVID-19 today by administering the medical center’s first Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to enrolled Veterans. 102-Year-Old WWII combat Veteran Mr. Melvin Rehkop is the first local Veteran to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at KCVA.
A soft-spoken but confident Melvin said, "I was very surprised when I received the call to be the first Veteran at KCVA to receive the vaccine this morning – I volunteered because staying vaccinated is a good thing to do."
David Isaacks, KCVA Medical Center Director, said, "It's an honor and privilege to have a 102-Year-Old WWII Veteran lead our Veterans in receiving the COVID-19 vaccinations. Mr. Rehkop is an American hero, a combat Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. Thanks for leading the way, Sir!"
Leading a path for others to follow is not a new concept for Melvin. When the Summer of 1941 came around, Melvin left the 220-acre family farm near Concordia, Missouri, and joined the Army to serve his country. Rehkop served in the U.S. Army from 1941-1945, attaining the rank of Sergeant. Private Rehkop first served as a cannon crewmember as a cannoneer. In the Fall of 1942, Rehkop had distinguished himself from his peers and is now part of an anti-aircraft battery team member. He was serving as the chief of his four-man height finder crew (anti-aircraft radar). While deployed, Sergeant Rehkop supervised the maintenance and operation of a large horizontal base stereoscope rangefinder instrument used to determine distances in yards to specific points and enemy aircraft. Rehkop attended the 6-week training for this complex instrument with the 47th Brigade Headquarters Company in Iceland.
During his service, Sergeant Rehkop deployed in the summer of 1942 to the European theatre of operation, participating on the Western Front of Europe's battle map. He directly supported combat operations from France to the densely forested Ardennes region of eastern Belgium. Rehkop participated in ground combat operations in the iconic Battle of the Bulge and then onto Germany as part of the Allied advancement. In all, he was deployed for 39 months in Iceland, France and Germany before returning to the Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. Melvin currently resides in an assisted living facility in Concordia, Missouri.
Editor's Note: KCVA’s Medical Director, David Isaacks mentioned KCVA was selected for the Moderna vaccine due to the greater distances from the KCVA main campus to the Community VA Clinics and KCVA’s service area to many hard to reach Veterans who reside in the more rural parts of Missouri and Eastern Kansas. The Moderna vaccine is maintained at a standard freezer’s temperature. Because of this attribute, the Moderna vaccine doses can be stored at higher temperatures, helping to facilitate its distribution to rural Veterans.
KCVA plans to vaccinate more than 700 area Veterans over the next two weeks. Initial Veteran vaccination appointments are based on priority groups with the highest at-risk Veterans receiving the first round of scheduled appointments. As the vaccine becomes more available, additional Veteran priority groups will receive calls offering the COVID-19 vaccination.