Jim Little and Jim Barnett hosted the eighth Four Chaplains ceremony at the American Legion Post No. 16 in Roseburg on Saturday.
The ceremony was held in commemoration of the four chaplains who died on Feb. 3, 1943, when the USAT Dorchester sank in the Atlantic Ocean after being torpedoed by a German submarine.
The four Army Chaplains — a Methodist minister, a Roman Catholic priest, a Rabbi, and a Dutch Reformed minister — were among the 672 soldiers, sailors, merchant marines and women who drowned in the icy waters. The men of God were said to have given their life jackets to others, giving up their own chances of survival.
Survivors later told of the courage and leadership of the chaplains — George Fox, Clark Poling, Alexander Goode and John Washington— who guided men to their boat stations.
It was that selfless act that inspired the Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor, which saw 12 new members inducted Saturday: Gerald Anderson, Roger Arnold, Steve Bergadine, Melvin Cheney, Kirkland Conner, Jackie Flowers, David Hopkins, Cynthia Houston, Neil Hummel, Dirk Kruysman, Douglas Page and Miguel Ramirez.
“We have such exemplary people in this community,” Little said. All nominations for the Legion of Honor were approved by the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Barnett, a retired U.S. Marine, joked around as each person came up to accept their award.
Kruysman received the award posthumously, with his wife Mary and brother Ted in attendance Saturday to receive the plaque in his honor.
Little said he remembered Kruysman sitting through a prior ceremony and shedding a tear. After that ceremony, Kruysman told Little he knew those people were on their way to save him.
Kruysman grew up in Nazi-occupied the Netherlands. He came to America in 1945 and served 42 years in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard.
“He was a true patriot,” Little said. Kruysman was the primary founder of the Douglas County Veterans Forum and died suddenly in August 2016.
The other 11 members selected were led into the American Legion building under false pretenses and surprised with the honors.
The ceremony also included Little retelling the story of the Four Chaplains and Mike Eakin, Mary Newman Keyes, Kirkland Conner and Chaplain Patrice Robichaux taking on the roles of ceremonial chaplains, representing each one of the four chaplains.
During a candlelight ceremony, the ceremonial chaplains would elaborate on the history of each chaplain.
Newman Keyes’ elaboration was especially significant as she represented Washington with whom she had a few things in common. In addition to both hailing from the town of Newark, New Jersey, Newman Keyes was baptized in the church where Washington presided.
“Until his final moment his voice could be heard in song and prayer,” Newman Keyes said about Washington.
It is said the four chaplains would sing and pray in Latin, Hebrew and English until their deaths, comforting those around them. The four ceremonial chaplains locked arms in the spirit of those original chaplains, while audience members rose to their feet in honor of those who came before them.