TURES COLUMN: Bipartisan bill to honor U.S. military chaplains you need to know about

Published 10:41 am Monday, May 31, 2021

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The night of Feb. 3, 1943, was one of America’s biggest disasters in the Battle of the Atlantic. Just after midnight, two Nazi torpedoes slammed into the hull of the U.S.S. Dorchester, a former cruise ship turned into a troop transport ferrying nearly 1,000 soldiers. Many perished, but there would have been no survivors if it had not been for the courage of four military chaplains.

Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Catholic Priest John P. Washington, Methodist Minister George L. Fox and Clark P. Poling, a minister with the Dutch Reformed Church of America, all knew what to do. They helped panicked soldiers and sailors by reaching the life jackets first, handing out all that were there, saving hundreds who would be picked up later by Coast Guard Cutters.  When they ran out, the four gave up their own life jackets to survivors who would have otherwise drowned. Witnesses describe how the four chaplains locked arms, and sang religious hymns, going down with the ship off the frigid waters of Greenland never to be seen again.

There’s a Chapel of the Four Chaplains. Originally located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, this interfaith institution was moved to Constitution Ave. in Philadelphia in 2001.

By some accounts, Rabbi Goode was moved by the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that he witnessed while a young lad.  Imagine if there was some sort of memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery which named all the chaplains who gave their lives in their military service.

There isn’t one. But that’s about to change. For years, the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF) and the American Legion have pushed for the memorial to Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains’ military to honor those names. Now they have a bipartisan pair of U.S. senators — Georgia’s Raphael Warnock and Arkansas’ John Boozzman, who have introduced such a bill to make that overdue update a reality.

If people of different faiths can come together to save lives and souls, and an African-American Democratic Party member can team up with a Southern White Republican to help provide an overdue honor, perhaps our country can come together this Memorial Day to put aside our differences and work together as well.