Veterans and members of the community packed the worship center of New Life Church on Sunday afternoon for the second annual Four Chaplains Memorial Service, a time to recognize the selflessness of four men who gave their lives for others while serving in World War II.
The service began at 2 p.m. and was hosted by American Legion Siloam Post 29, which plans to repeat the occasion in the years ahead, Post 29 Public Relations Officer Jerry Cavness said. Its purpose is to honor the lives and actions of military chaplains George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington, as well as those who died along with them.
The day's ceremony was centered around a theme of unity, regardless of background, as the four chaplains each came from different faiths: Methodist, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Dutch Reformed, according Cavness. The four men, along with more than 600 servicemen, died while aboard the U.S.S. Dorchester in February 1943.
The vessel was a troop transport ship that was en route to Greenland and about 150 miles from its destination when it was struck by a torpedo from a German U-Boat, Cavness said. As the ship was sinking, the number of life jackets available quickly began to run low, and survivors of the incident recall this eventually prompted the four chaplains to voluntarily give up their own in order to save four others.
Survivors also reported seeing the four chaplains embracing one another, arm in arm while singing gospels as the ship sank further and further beneath the icy water, Cavness said. The chaplains were awarded a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Cross posthumously and in 1960, their next of kin were presented a special medal for heroism which is thought to hold the same degree of importance as the Medal of Honor, he said.
Since the incident occurred, the story of the four chaplains has gained widespread attention and similar services are held across the country each year around this time. At Sunday's service, just more than 100 people attended and the schedule consisted of a number of items, beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance, which was led by the Boy Scouts and the National Anthem, led by the Girl Scouts.
An opening prayer was given by New Life Church Pastor Tim Estes, followed by music from a singing duet and an introductory speech from Cavness. During the program, in an effort to help the audience learn more about the chaplains, American Legion members J.W. Smith, Jim Wilbanks, Mike O'Neal and Stuart Reeves each took on the persona of one of the chaplains, and briefly summarized the life story of each one.
More information about each chaplain was presented during a candlelight service, which was led by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 29 members Carol Smith, Cheryl Jones, Shirley Sims and State Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R). Mayor John Mark Turner also gave a brief speech and praised the parents who brought their kids to the ceremony, emphasizing how important it is for young people to be learning about these things, so that freedom isn't taken for granted.
He then issued a mayoral proclamation, designating the day, Feb. 3, 2019, as "Four Chaplains Sunday." In a speech given earlier in the service, Cavness concurred with Turner's belief, perhaps best summing up what the service means to veterans.
"I think, and I've said it many times, that we are losing some of this in our memories," Cavness said. "We can't let that happen, not in the United States of America. So, I ask you as parents, and grandparents and great grandparents, share the memories that we have, share the facts of our military, what they've done, how they've sacrificed and what our freedoms mean to us in our country. We can't let these dates roll by, whether it's D-Day, or all the way back to World War I, 9/11, the Four Chaplains, these things need to be on our hearts and on our minds.
"Freedom doesn't come cheap, it's something that someone, somewhere has given their life so that we may continue to have these freedoms, to have these memorials, to have the fun that we have and the wonderful lives that we live. So, it would be my hope that as we go through the days ahead, that we do remember what it means and share that. I'm not saying we can't have fun, we can't enjoy families or that we can't have picnics and outings on certain holidays but let's not lose sight of what these things stand for and let them fade into history."General News on 02/06/2019
Print Headline: Four Chaplains service stresses importance of remembering