Until the day of his death, no man can be sure of his courage. — Jean Anouilh
By far one of the most compelling stories of courage from World War II unfolded at sea.
In 1943, survivors of the sinking of Army transport ship USAT Dorchester witnessed unfathomed heroism and interfaith cooperation in the face of danger.
On her way to Greenland, a German U-Boat launched a torpedo in the early morning hours of February 3rd that struck the Dorchester. When she started to take on water, pandemonium erupted as the men struggled against the list of the sinking ship to get lifeboats into the freezing, oil-slicked water. A loss of power made it impossible to signal alarms to abandon ship.
Among her 904 passengers were four Army Chaplains who managed to make it to the deck of the ship to provide comfort and aid to the panicked men. Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others. These courageous men were Lt George L. Fox of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, a Methodist Minister, Lt. Alexander D. Goode of Brooklyn, New York a Jewish Rabbi, Lt. Clark V. Poling of Columbus, Ohio, Dutch Reformed, and Lt. John P. Washington of Newark, New Jersey, a Roman Catholic.
2018 marks the 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and Wreaths Across America is proud once again to join the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation in remembering their lives and honoring them for their sacrifice.
Join Wreaths Across America Sunday, February 11th at Noon for the 2nd Annual Four Chaplains Memorial Service at the Balsam Valley Chapel in Maine. The non-denominational chapel is nestled among the balsam fir trees that hold replica dog tags of military veterans. In 2017 during the first annual event, the Four Chaplains Tree was dedicated as part of the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone program.
Joining us once again this year to offer a reflection on the lives of the Four Chaplains will be CH Major David Sivret. Additionally, Cindi Sienkiewicz will share some thoughts with attendees as the granddaughter of one of the survivors of the sinking. A luncheon for veterans and others in attendance will directly follow the service.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
In just a few days, Paulette and her fellow Troop Greeters will welcome veterans, Gold Star families, and other traveling dignitaries who are part of the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery.
Grand Marshals – Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel Roger Donlon, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) and his wife, Norma, a Vietnam-era Gold Star wife – will lead the caravan as it travels down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with music so tune into WAA Radio throughout the holidays to hear musical Season's Greetings from some of the finest musicians in America!
"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
Rhonda says she's experienced the "power of the wreath" watching people react to her daughter's presentations.
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.
Yes! There's still time to sponsor a veterans' remembrance wreath in time for National Wreaths Across America Day.
"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
Wreaths Across America is forever grateful for the thousands of volunteers who place veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen as they say their names aloud every December. Remember, we are guests on the hallowed grounds of participating cemeteries and we ask that you honor their rules and regulations. If you're volunteering at Arlington this year, here's what you need to know.
Wreaths Across America announces open loads available as the Honor Fleet expands to transport America's Respect.
"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."