Amidst our somewhat divided country today, it is good to reflect on the sacrifices and selfless acts of others.
These four chaplains define what our country should be about. It did not matter what their religious worldview was, or the color of their skin, or their income. These four warriors came together to save others and make the ultimate sacrifice while ignoring their own safety.
The Four Chaplains, also sometimes referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains” or the “Dorchester Chaplains,” were four U.S. Army Chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943, during World War II.
The relatively new chaplains all held the rank of first lieutenant. They included Methodist minister the Reverend George Fox, Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Ph.D.), Roman Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities, and denominations were different, although Goode, Poling and Washington had all served as leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. They met at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University, where they prepared for assignments in the European theater, sailing on board Dorchester to report to their new assignments.
When there were no more lifejackets in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men. One survivor would later say, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”
As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains — arms linked, braced against the slanting deck with voices heard praying and singing hymns.
I believe it is when we look for the best in others and look at their hearts in love that we will see true progress in our country. It is when we are willing to stop being selfish and having our own agendas when we can truly see God’s will in our lives. It is when we are willing to sacrifice for others that we truly understand the meaning of love and what Christ did on the cross for us. Whether we are willing to sacrifice our time to serve others, our finances, or share our homes by inviting others in, or even sacrificing our very lives for another, it all boils down to sacrificing for others in need. This was best defined by Christ’s actions on the cross. Jesus was willing to go to the cross, suffer and sacrifice Himself for all of us.
In closing, I want to challenge all of you and myself to think about the level of sacrifice in your life. Are you too comfortable? Are you giving and sacrificing something to others? What are you willing to do for people in need?
These four chaplains knew there was a need and they responded. They made a decision to be willing to die for the men around them. Politics did not matter, the individual’s religion did not matter, but the lives of their soldiers and civilians mattered. These brave men left a legacy of sacrifice for all of us to remember and honor.
Grace and Peace,