At 12:55 am on February 3, 1943, the USAT Dorchester was tragically sunk. Of the 902 young men on board only 230 survived. Many of those survivors owe their lives to the courage and leadership exhibited by the heroic Four Chaplains, who, in sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of united brotherhood. These Four Chaplains gave their own life jackets to save four unknown soldiers and, in so doing, gave up their only means of survival. They were last seen on the deck of the ship with their arms linked together and their heads bowed in prayer as they went to their watery graves in the North Atlantic off the coast of Greenland. Each Chaplain received the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.
The Four Chaplains Monument in Sebastian is a “Living Monument” created by Dorchester Survivor Ernie L. Heaton and Monument President Larry Wapnick. It is a tribute to the Chaplains, Chaplain George L. Fox, Methodist, Chaplain Alexander D. Goode, Rabbi, Jewish Faith, Chaplain Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed Church and Father John P. Washington, Catholic Priest. Heaton was one of the last survivors to see the Chaplains alive. An official Army Air Corp Document validates this.
In 2010, both Ernie Heaton and Larry Wapnick were elected to the Board of Directors of The Chapel of Four Chaplains, Phila, PA. The Chapel, founded in 1951, is devoted to the “Eternal Chaplains” and “Interfaith In Action”. Their mission is to “Encourage Cooperation and Selfless Service Among All People.” This Memorial Service in Sebastian, FL, honors them, and awards those who stand out in the community for their sacrifices in making it a better place to live with national awards.
There will be a full military ceremony replete with Color Guard, a 21-gun salute and live Taps played by Duke Scales.
The program will open with a Benediction, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance by Ardra Rigby, U.S.Marine Corps Dessert Storm, Dessert Shield, and Boy Scout Troop 500 of Sebastian, followed by The National Anthem. There will be a welcome from Sebastian Mayor Jim Hill . The ceremony will have messages and words from Lt. General Bill Welser, USAF Ret., and the Members of the Indian River County Ministerial Committee. They will again honor and perform the rituals of the Chaplains Ceremony. Their presentation is complete and beautiful. There will be many local Veterans Organizations also honoring these “Eternal Men!”
A Highlight of our annual ceremony will be an Award of Honor to Jesse Zermeno of Operation Hope, in Fellsmere; for the past 20 years Jesse and his volunteers have distributed food, clothing, toys and supplies to our areas’ poor and homeless, including our homeless veterans.
The ceremony will be completed with “Echo Taps” played by Duke Scales.
Children and adults of all faiths, colors and creeds, are invited to come together as Americans for this anniversary service. The service should last no longer than one hour. It is a must for all to learn about the Four Chaplains’ sacrifice and why all Americans must stand together as the Chaplains did 76 years earlier.
For more information contact: Larry Wapnick: President of the Four Chaplains Monument at 772 532 8749.