The chaplains here are remembering Four Chaplains Day Feb. 3. This annual remembrance recognizes the unselfish acts of four chaplains during World War II.
The troop ship USAT Dorchester was torpedoed by a German Submarine U-223 on Feb. 3, 1943, off the coast of Newfoundland. Four chaplains, 1 Methodist, 1 Baptist, 1 Rabbi and 1 Catholic, organized an orderly evacuation by helping as many troops as possible to get life jackets on, get onto boats and to keep calm, even giving up their own life vests during the chaos. The four chaplains linked arms and prayed and sang hymns as the boat sank.
They were all awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously but were awarded posthumously a Medal of Honor in 2006.
“Our chaplains in Wiesbaden sacrificially devote themselves for others’ lives, too, especially to enable religious volunteers’ spiritual care for others,” said Wiesbaden Chaplain, LTC Jeff Dillard.
Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 4 Trevor Claypool said the church is called to a specific function in the world, to be the salt and light, and the chaplains within the USAG Wiesbaden understand they are in the perfect position to support the garrison church family in this calling.
“As a small group facilitator, the group has been supported by the Chapel Next chaplains who share their notes, provide prayer and attend the group in order to further reach the garrison community,” he said. “Several of the chaplains have worked to build personal relationships with the volunteers through shared suffering, shared encouragement and shared growth in the word of God.”
Claypool said these relationships have a great influence on the garrison community, families and individual service members, especially in times of fear and darkness, like the community has experienced throughout 2020 (and still continues today).
According to Dillard, the chaplains do more than just give their lives for people, they also sacrifice their time to equip volunteers who, in turn, sacrificially serve others on their spiritual journey. Here at Wiesbaden volunteers are often the head, heart and hands of ministry to others.
Christian Stephenson, director of the Wiesbaden Hospitality Ministry from Cadence International is one such volunteer. He and his wife concentrate on supporting the religious community when and where they are needed.
“What is needed and what we have an understanding of is the need for the single Soldier in grades E1 through E6,” Stephenson said. He said the Soldiers in that rank sometimes feel forgotten.
“What my wife, Melissa, and I do is we bring them into our homes, although we haven’t been able to because of the COVID lockdown. We do use virtual platforms to connect with single Soldiers,” Stephenson said. He said they also bring home-cooked meals to the Soldiers in the barracks.
His wife does a Bible study at the Clay Chapel for 20 Soldiers, who can safely distance themselves and there is a single service member fellowship at the Clay Chapel sanctuary on Friday nights.
“Because of these efforts, we are able to build close relationships with the Soldiers,” he said.