YORK, Pa. — The Four Chaplains Memorial of York County honors the memory of four men who died serving God and our country.
The Four Chaplains, or Immortal Chaplains, died on Feb. 3, 1943 when the S.S. Dorchester was hit and sunk by the Germans during World War II. The ship was transporting U.S. troops from New York to Greenland. There were 902 people on board. 230 of them survived; 674 died.
The Four Chaplains were all of different faiths. George Fox was a Methodist minister from Lewistown, Mifflin County. Alexander Goode was a Jewish rabbi who left his pulpit at York's Temple Beth Israel to serve. John Washington was a Catholic priest. Clark Poling was a reformed church minister.
The four of them gave their own life jackets to other men and linked arms as the ship when down. They said prayers and sang hymns.
"I think they represented the unity that was necessary during the war years," said Gordon Freireich, one of the founders of The Four Chaplains Memorial of York County.
The selflessness displayed by the Chaplains inspired Freireich and other men in the York community to create an organization in their honor.
"We took the economics club breakfast which was a monthly event and dedicated it to the Four Chaplains in 1993 as a way to remember them and honor their service and their lives," Freireich said.
The group started a prayer breakfast in February 1993. This year, the group will celebrate it's 30th anniversary.
"What we wanted to do this year is first raise awareness of the organization. The second [thing we wanted to do] is pivot towards youth and carry the message of service and sacrifice to youth so we've organized a youth breakfast for students from throughout York County," said Terry Gendron, President of The Four Chaplains Memorial of York County.
The organization's legion of honor program recognizes people in the community for their acts of volunteerism and sacrifice. The Four Chaplains Memorial also awards a scholarship to a student who attended the Alexander Goode Elementary School in York and later graduates from William Penn High School.
Barry Freeland, a member of the Four Chaplains Memorial of York County, says the group's efforts make a difference in the community.
"An organization such as this, we're not going to get world peace, but we can begin to effectuate change in this local community with a program such as this and bringing people together to talk about our differences as well as what we have in common," Freeland said.
The organization has also honored the Four Chaplains with a mural at 137 West Market Street in York.
It was commissioned in 1998 by Flinchbaugh Engineering and painted by Connie Burns Watkins.
To learn more about The Four Chaplains Memorial of York County, click here.
To get involved and donate to the cause, click here.