A Memorial Day Memory
As much as I decry what has been done to Christmas, in that for all too many it has been stripped of its true meaning, I decry what has been done to Memorial Day even more. These United States did not become a world leader, as well as the great beacon of freedom we know it to be, because of events in Bethlehem or Nazareth or Golgotha (Jerusalem) 2000 years ago; these United States became a world leader as well as a great beacon of freedom because of the thousands upon thousands of Americans who were prepared to put their lives on the line abroad, so that others could enjoy life at home.
Separation of church and state precludes the study of the birth of Jesus in schools in this country. Yet, separation of church and state is totally academic when it comes to including those who gave of their lives in our military. Accordingly, I dedicate this article to the memory of Lieutenant Alexander Goode.
Alexander Goode came into this world 105 years ago this month, in Brooklyn New York. He was one of four children born to Rabbi Hyman Goodekowitz. Following his father’s footsteps, Alexander also became a Rabbi, serving in pulpits in Marion, Indiana and York, Pennsylvania. It was in York, that Rabbi Goode founded Boy Scout Troop 37 as a multi-cultural mixed race group – the first such group in this country where scouts could earn Catholic, Jewish and Protestant awards.
With the outbreak of World War II, Rabbi Goode applied to become a Navy Chaplain but was turned down. A year later, Rabbi Goode was accepted into the army, where he was sent to chaplaincy school at Harvard in preparation for deployment to Europe. It was there in late 1942, that the Rabbi met fellow chaplains George L. Fox, Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington.
In January 1943, the four chaplains set sail for Europe aboard the Dorchester. With them were over 900 soldiers headed for the United Kingdom. Shortly after midnight in the midst of their voyage, the Dorchester was spotted by a German submarine. In a matter of minutes, the ship was torpedoed. With the ship rapidly sinking, the soldiers scrambled for lifeboats, some of which were damaged by the blast. The four chaplains went into action immediately, helping the soldiers fill the undamaged lifeboats and distributing life jackets. When the supply of life jackets ran out, each of the four chaplains gave his life jacket to a soldier. With the lifeboats set adrift and the supply of life jackets exhausted, the chaplain prayed together with those soldiers unable to escape the sinking ship. Less than a half hour after the torpedo struck, the Dorchester sunk into the frigid waters with 672 men still aboard. Story has it that the last anyone saw of the four chaplains, they were standing on deck, arms linked, praying together.
The next time you are in Philadelphia, why not visit the chapel of the four chaplains located in the chapel of the Philadelphia Naval Yard. In the meantime, take a minute or two next Monday to remember Alexander Goode, George Fox, Clark Poling and John Poling. May their heroism and their service to this country be an inspiration to us all.