LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A small group of American Legion (Post 1995) members, veterans, and patriotic locals gathered at Harper McCaughan town green in Long Beach for a memorial service on Four Chaplains Day.
The Sunday service honored the Four US Army Chaplains aboard the U.S.A.T Dorchester, which was torpedoed by Germany on Feb. 3, 1943.
The men were Lt. George Fox, Lt. Alexander Goode, Lt. John Washington, and Lt. Clark Poling; all from different faiths.
The chaplains began to distribute life vests as the ship sank, but eventually ran out. That's when the four men gave up their vests to four frightened soldiers.
"When giving out life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew. Father Washington did not call for a Catholic, and the other two didn't call for Protestants. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line," explained keynote speaker Rev. Ronald Durham.
The next day, the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded to the next of kin. Congress and President Eisenhower also awarded the men a one-time only posthumous Special Medal for Heroism in 1961.
"There's a saying," said American Legion member Kathryn Elmore. "'No greater service can you do than lay down your life for your brother,' and I believe that and I think these chaplains proved it."
And even after many decades, many believe that the lesson to take away from the chaplains can still be applied.
"Nowadays, people don't care about other people as much as they should, said JROTC member Maraya Jemmott. "I think when it comes down to it, learning a story like that can really make people think about how they might need to change their actions."
Of the 902 men aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, 230 survived.