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The four chaplains

The Way I See It

November 13, 2011
By John Sheda , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. A day we stop for a while and quietly say "thank you" to all of our Veterans for a job well done. Every single Veteran is a hero. There is no question about that. Anyone who gives up several years of their lives to serve our country is a hero in my book. I am not a Veteran. This is perhaps one of the biggest regrets of my life. The older I get, the more I love and respect the Veteran. You are very special in my book.

Let me share a story of four men, all men of the cloth, who came from immensely different backgrounds and "found each other" while attending Chaplain's School at Harvard University in 1942. George Fox was the oldest at age 42, while the youngest was 30 year old Clark Poling. The other two, Alexander Goode and John Washington were in between these two. Fox was a Methodist minister; Goode was a Jewish rabbi; Washington, a Roman Catholic priest and Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister. Different religions, different backgrounds, different reasons for enlisting in the service but joined together by their common love for God, their country and their fellow man.

On February 3, 1943, the United States Army Transport ship called The Dorchester was crossing the North Atlantic carrying more than 900 troops to an American base in Greenland. Aboard this ship were these four Chaplains of different faiths. Around 12:55 a.m., a German U-boat fired a torpedo into the Dorchester. The explosion immediately killed 100 men and all power and communication with Dorchester's three escort ships was knocked out.

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In eighteen minutes, the Dorchester sank to the bottom of the frigid North Atlantic waters and over 670 men died.

During these 18 minutes, these four Chaplains spread out, comforting the wounded men and directing others to the safety of lifeboats. One survivor, Private William Bednar, later said "I could hear men screaming from every angle. I could also hear the Chaplain's preaching and praying courage. It was their voices that kept me going and helped me survive."

Another survivor, John Ladd, watched each of the four Chaplains distribute life jackets to the men. And when they eventually ran out of life jackets, each Chaplain removed his life jacket and handed it to four young men. "It was the finest thing I have ever seen, or hope to see, this side of heaven," he recalled.

As the USS Dorchester sank, these four Chaplains continued their calling to help as many men as they could. Finally when they could help no more, Father John Washington, Reverend George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode and Reverend Clark Poling locked arms, reciting the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...."

There are many, many stories of such heroism but every single one of our Veterans is also a hero. They served their country well and allowed you and I to sleep well at night. On their watch we were protected and safe. Today take the time to walk up to a Veteran and simply say "thank you." They ask for nothing more. And pray for all of our men and women who are serving and protecting us today.

That's The Way I See It. Let me know what you think at or call me at 319.334.4117



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