LAUREL — Four Chaplains Day is a time when those around the country remember four military chaplains who sacrificed their lives for fellow service members during World War II.
One of the ceremonies in Montana happened at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Laurel on Thursday.
American Legion Post 123 hosted the ceremony for the four chaplains who died when US Army Transport Dorchester sunk after getting hit by a German torpedo on February 3, 1943.
Of 902 young men on board, only 232 survived.
"They gave up their life jackets to save four veterans on the ship," said Richard Klose, Post 123 finance officer. "And they locked arms and went down with the ship. Chaplains are a special group to to nurture the fellow veterans."
The chaplains honored are George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Chaplain Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington.
Klose and American Legion Post 123 brought the ceremony to Laurel two years ago after seeing one in Helena.
Pastor Jason Nicholson of Our Savior's Lutheran Church participated in the ceremony and is also a chaplain in the Navy Reserves.
"In the military, you're trained to think of others as chaplains and as clergy members are taught and trained to think about others," Nicholson said. "And making that sacrifice in the example of Christ, or in the example of God, because there's a Jewish chaplain too."
From the website ArmyHistory.org:
In the aftermath of the disaster, the story of the Four Chaplains garnered popular notice. Many thought that they should be awarded the Medal of Honor. Instead, on 19 December 1944, they were each awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1948, the U.S. Post Service issued a commemorative stamp in their honor, and Congress designated 3 February as “Four Chaplains Day.” Twelve years later, Congress created the Four Chaplains’ Medal, which was presented to their survivors by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker on 18 January 1961 at Fort Myer, Virginia.
Today, one can find memorials to the Four Chaplains all across the nation. Several organizations exist to further their memory, including the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia and the Immortal Chaplains Foundation in Minnesota. Chapels, bridges, memorials, and plaques honoring the Four Chaplains are found in so many locations, including a stained glass window in the Pentagon, that it is impossible to list them all here.
"It's a good lesson for everybody to know that there are people out there willing to sacrifice their lives for others," Klose said.
"Remembering that sacrifice, remembering that unity even in the midst of our differences is really important," Nicholson said.
Nationwide, they've been remembering and hosting the ceremony since 1951.