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My friend Cass Forkin invited a few friends and me to be her guests at the 50th Annual Four Chaplains awards Banquet at which would be honored as Humanitarian of the Year. Cass is the Director of the Twilight Wish Foundation which grants wishes for seniors.

Their mission “is to honor and enrich the lives of deserving seniors through intergenerational Twilight Wish celebrations.”

Their vision” is to impact cultural behavior by inspiring the way society views aging to make our world a nicer place to age, one Twilight Wish at a time.”

They have granted wishes such as tombstones, dentures, wheelchair and stoves, and adventures such as a cross-country truck ride, having a painting lesson with a famous artist and one I got to participate in, acquiring an autographed photo of Gene Simmons of KISS and four carved pumpkin images of the band members.

I have known Cass for many years and have witnessed first hand the dedication she has for this organization and the ways she puts her heart and soul into the work. She was clearly deserving of the award.

The group that bestowed the award was one I had not heard of but was deeply moved when hearing the story of the namesakes.  They were Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist Minister; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a Rabbi; Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed Minister. These men were assigned to the  U.S.A.T. Dorchester, which was carrying 902 men. On February 2, 1943, the ship was struck by a German submarine and rapidly took on water.  These four men were witnessed offering comfort to the terrified occupants who were plunging into the frigid water. In a supreme act of heroism, they each took off their life vests and gave them to four others. As the ship was sinking, they were seen praying. According to John Ladd, a survivor, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

Their legacy lives on. In the hotel ballroom were numerous military personnel; some active duty and others retired, from all branches and of all ranks. Several were chaplains themselves. For this avowed crunchy granola, left of center, pacifist, being in a room filled with service men and women was a change from that of my customary crowd. I was delighted to hear, not glorifying of war, but a devotion to peace. As the story of the men unfolded before us, I was struck by the winding road that led the chaplains to the pivotal moment. One of them had nearly died at age 12 but lived on to become a hero. Each of them made a conscious choice to enter the seminary and the military. Each of them was assigned to the Dorchester and happened to be on board when the ship was attacked. It led me to ponder the concept of ‘meant to be.’ Was it pre-ordained that this event occur and that the four of them had their roles to play? 

There were others honored with applause who were families of the chaplains, survivors and those who died on that day.

I plan to visit the chapel which located in Philadelphia so I can immerse myself in the energy of such devotion.

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