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Veterans of the U.S. armed forces who died during the previous year will be honored Friday morning during the Four Chaplains Memorial Service at First Baptist Church under the direction of the Big Spring VA Medical Center.
The memorial service â€” which is named after four U.S. Army chaplains who sacrificed their lives to save others when the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was sunk by a German U-boat in 1943 â€” will get under way at 11 a.m. In the main chapel at the local church, according to VA Chaplain Dean Thomas.
â€śDuring World War II, four Army chaplains â€” George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling and John Washington â€” went down with the U.S.A.T. Dorchester,â€ť Thomas explained. â€śThese four men, all of different faiths, gave up their life preservers and stayed behind on the sinking ship to help comfort the men and women onboard. Although all four of them were from different faiths, that didnâ€™t matter at that moment. They worked together to help people, and thatâ€™s such an important thing to remember.â€ť
The four chaplains were posthumously honored with the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart, and VA hospitals across the country use the anniversary of their sacrifice to remember recently passed veterans.
Thomas said he will read the story of the four chaplains during the memorial, followed by recognition of other men and women who gave of themselves in the name of their country.
â€śWeâ€™ll have the pledge and the service songs,â€ť said Thomas. â€śThis year we will also have the posting of the colors, including the American flag and each of the service flags. Weâ€™ll also recognize each of the area veterans who have passed away during the past year.
â€śMike Tarpley will also be on hand to play Taps, and James Hunnicutt will play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. I feel like it will be a very moving service for everyone in attendance.â€ť
Thomas said the ceremony is a chance to look back on fond memories.
â€śWe are grateful to all these veterans,â€ť said Thomas, who serves as chief of the local VAâ€™s chaplain service. â€śWe are glad they were there when we needed them, and weâ€™re thankful for their service ... We can look back on the days and nights we shared with our loved ones, and have very fond memories.â€ť
This year marks the fourth year the ceremony has been held at First Baptist Church, according to Thomas.
â€śA few years ago we held the ceremony in the biggest room we had at the VA hospital, but it was way too crowded,â€ť said Thomas. â€śWe had more than 200 people show up. So we decided to move it to a place where we would be able to accommodate everyone.
â€śI mailed out more than 600 letters this year, so you really never know how many people are going to show up. Some of those letters go off to places like Ohio and even farther away, but this ceremony is very important for a lot of people, so we want to do everything we can to make them comfortable and accommodate them.â€ť
For more information on the ceremony, contact Thomas at 263-7361.