VA Western New York Healthcare System will hold a memorial service for veterans, employees and the community at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, to honor four chaplains who lost their lives in an extraordinary act of heroism during World War II. Rabbi Allen Podet will deliver the keynote address in Freedom Hall at the Buffalo site, 3495 Bailey Ave., Buffalo.
The Legion of Honor award presentation will also take place. The Legion of Honor Award program publicly recognizes and honors outstanding members of society whose lives model the giving spirit and unconditional service to community, nation, and humanity without regard to race, religion, or creed exemplified dramatically by the four chaplains.
The four chaplains - a Methodist minister, Jewish rabbi, Dutch Reformed Church minister, and Catholic priest - were on a U.S. Army transport ship that was hit by a German torpedo off Greenland in February 1943. When it became apparent there were not enough life jackets, the chaplains removed theirs and handed them to frightened young soldiers, choosing to go down with the ship. They locked arms together and prayed in the tradition of their own faith. Of the 902 on board, there were only 227 survivors.