Together They Served

The Story of the Four Chaplains

The Four Chaplains, also referred to as the "Immortal Chaplains" or the "Dorchester Chaplains," were four World War II chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943. The Dorchester was a civilian liner converted for military service in World War II as a War Shipping Administration troop transport. She was able to carry slightly more than 900 military passengers and crew.

The ship left New York on January 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying approximately 900 others, as part of a convoy of three ships escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba, and Comanche. During the early morning hours of February 3 the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. The chaplains helped the other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

The impact of the chaplains story was deep, with many memorials and coverage in the media. Each of the four chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. The chaplains were nominated for the Medal of Honor, but were found ineligible as they had not engaged in combat with the enemy. Instead, Congress created a medal for them, with the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2024 - Justine Crowley-Duncan

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - On behalf of the Four Chaplains Brotherhood Award committee, I am pleased to announce the recipient for 2024 will be Justine Crowley-Duncan, of Latham, N.Y.

Justine has served the Capital Region veterans and military personnel for than 30 years.

She served as a Veteran Service Chair of Mechanicsville-Stillwater Elks Lodge for 13 years, recently joining the Cohoes Waterford Lodge; and District Veterans Service Chair for the Northeast District for two years while now in her third year as the NYS Veterans Service Chairwoman.

For the past two years as state chair, Justine organized a statewide Elks raffle fundraiser for the Fort Drum United Services Organizations, raising close to $14,000.

Crowley-Duncan volunteered with Patriot flight, an organization that sends veterans to visit to their memorials in Washington, D.C., and was a guardian to six veterans on four flights!

As a Patriot Guard Rider, she is visible in the flag line at homecomings at Albany International Airport, when deceased veterans are flown home, at veteran funerals, send off and welcome home ceremonies for the Honor Flight network or troops coming home from deployments.

She has been the Secretary of the Not-For-Profit Capital Region Veterans Memorial Legacy Project.  For more than three years, she raised funds for the project to create a museum, veterans café, resource center and monuments listing our Capital Region military personnel killed in combat.  The Legacy Project will be built on six acres in Glenville, which is looking to have a grand opening of the first phase of the project, this coming April!

She is co-founder of the New York Warrior Promise Wall, that traveled with the New York State Remembering Our Fallen memorial.  She has since purchased the NYS Remembering Our Fallen Memorial she owns and operates the displays, now known as the NYS Fallen Military memorial.  Both Memorials are scheduled for a May 2024 display at the state capitol.


2020 - Bill Schaaf

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - Members of the Jewish War Veterans joined with the First Reformed Church of Schenectady and more than 120 attendees in the Clark Poling Chapel to honor Bill Schaaf of the Patriot Guard Riders as the 55th recipient of the Four Chaplains’ Brotherhood Award Sunday, February 23, 2020.

Schaaf, of Troy, N.Y., has more than a dozen years of supporting the veteran community in his role as a Patriot Guard Rider, Ride Captain, Senior Ride Captain and Assistant State Captain. Since 2016, he has served as State Captain and President of the Patriot Guard Riders Board of Directors.

“Bill’s efforts go above and beyond the volunteers we see throughout our community,” Altman said. “He shows a drive and commitment to help others and has touched the lives of thousands of veterans and their families, a fitting tribute to the service of the Four Chaplains.”

Schaaf received numerous proclamations and citations from local, state and federal representatives at the ceremony.

“The example of the Four Chaplains is more resonant today than ever before,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko, representative of the region’s 20th district.

“What an expression of community,” Tonko said. “It is an honor to join with Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families here today to recall the sacrifice of the Four Chaplains and to spotlight a truly deserving member of our community, Bill Schaaf.”

“When I reflect upon the stature of this Four Chaplains Award and all that it represents – my awareness of the previous Four Chaplains Award recipients with their incredible backgrounds and achievements, I am humbled to be considered in their company,” Schaaf said in his remarks.

“The Jewish War Veterans Albany Post 105 are to be commended for keeping their ecumenical spirit alive and well in holding this ceremony in the very church building whose Christian services were presided over by one of the Four Chaplains, Lt. Clark Poling,” Schaaf said. “How fitting it is that we meet here in his remembrance.”

Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., Schaaf served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971, leaving service with the rank of sergeant.  He is currently employed as a licensed insurance broker.

In 2009, three years after he joined the Patriot Guard Riders, he was lead coordinator for Patriot Guard honors for the three-day escort of remains of an unknown Civil War Union soldier brought home from the Antietam Battlefield for interment at the Saratoga National Cemetery.

In a similar role, he became state coordinator for the Patriot Guard Veterans Recovery Program that year, creating and managing a program with New York funeral directors to identify unclaimed cremated remains of veterans to ensure they receive military honors and interment. Under his direction, more than 200 unclaimed veterans have received their final honors and interment at Bath National or Saratoga National Cemeteries under his leadership.

“I only accept this kindness to me on behalf of the Patriot Guard Riders,” Schaaf said. “People often ask us why we do what we do. Simple: because it’s the right thing to do. It is I who is privileged to be standing here in their sted.”

“Of all the things that I’m being accused of accomplishing, these missions would not – could not – have been successful without boots on the ground leadership and the active, willing participation of the dedication men and women of the Patriot Guard Riders,” he said.

“The Patriot Guard is all about being a visible reminder that there are those among us that will always be there to offer dignity, honor and respect for the life and service of our veterans.” 

2015 - Ray Sestak

ALBANY, NY - Feb 23, 2015 A local veteran was honored for his selfless service on behalf of veterans and the community, ranked among the legendary Four Chaplains of World War II.

Duty Calls: Air Force veteran earns Four Chaplains Award

He received the honor Sunday at a ceremony by the Albany Post 105 of Jewish War Veterans at Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albany.

Sestak served in the Air Force from 1967-71, flying combat reconnaissance missions with the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing in 1969-70 in the Vietnam War. The former sergeant earned two Air Medals, an Air Force Commendation Medal, an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and a Good Conduct Medal.

After the war, he went to work for the state and retired in 2008 from the New York Lottery as chief information officer.

After retirement, Sestak became a transportation coordinator and volunteer van driver for Disabled American Veterans at the VA Medical Center. He has logged more than 3,600 volunteer hours.

He serves as a volunteer during an annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down as well as the Albany Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades. As ride captain with the Patriot Guard riders, Sestak coordinates and directs motorcycle escorts for veterans' funerals and supports the departures of veterans participating in the Honor Flight Network of flights to war memorials in Washington, D.C.

Sestak is a life member and vice president of the Capital District Chapter Eight of the Vietnam Veterans of America and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Waterford Post 5800. He serves as the VA Voluntary Service representative for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

"Ray Sestak is a veteran who has made a difference, giving back to our fellow vets and our community," said Todd Rosenfield, JWV Albany Post 105 commander. "I can think of no better representation of the ideals of the Four Chaplains than Ray's service to help others. Where he saw a need to help others, he stepped up to do what's right, to do what's needed."

"Ray Sestak is a man of many hats, and an individual whose favorite word is 'yes' when he is asked to help," said Matt Sparks, a fellow DAV volunteer. "He is a go-to guy for so many organizations that capitalize on his intensity, ability, dedication and willingness to get things done. He is always ready to step up and help when asked, or even before he is asked, if he sees a need."

Sestak has worked on a national committee helping track down family members to retrieve DNA samples for final identification of remains of World War II and Korean War service members.

He has worked on the logistics team of Equinox, getting supplies, equipment and food that feeds almost 10,000 Albany residents every Thanksgiving. Sestak volunteers at the Capt. John C. McKenna IV Military Courtesy Room at Albany International Airport, a place for rest and relaxation for traveling military members.

He typically works three or four shifts a week transporting emergency blood throughout the American Red Cross New York-Penn Region Blood Transport Division.

"In the past year alone, Ray has driven for over 128 separate runs, usually to more than one location in a run, delivered 76 stats (emergency blood deliveries) to hospitals, traveled 18,068 miles and gave 510 hours of his time to make a difference," said Barbara Berberich, volunteer representative for the Red Cross unit. "Ray is a dedicated, caring, loyal, friendly and responsible individual. We are so very fortunate to have him."

2015 - George Duguid

NORTHPORT, NY - George W. Duguid accepted the Four Chaplins Legion of Honor award along with other volunteers at the Northport Veterans Hospital in Northport, NY.

The award was presented in conjunction with the Disabled Veterans Association who sponsored vans that transported patients to and from the VA hospitals 5 days a week from various locations throughout Long Island.

George volunteered over 3,500 hours, as well as over 75,000 miles of driving.

George W. Duguid is a veteran of the US Air Force and retired Nassau County NY Detective with 33 years of service.  Upon his retirement he volunteered as a driver picking up veterans at their residence and delivering them to the Northport VA hospital for treatment and then returning the veterans to their residence.  This required volunteering at minimum one day a week to up to 5 days a week with hours starting at 6am to at least 3pm.  Trips per day were a minimum of 50 miles.  Some trips required picking up veterans in New Jersey and "upstate" NY.

George and his wife raised 2 sons who followed him into careers in the police department and both sons were involved in the 9-11 recovery process.  George and his wife Diane have 3 grandchildren.

George is an active PGRNY member and attends Honor Missions in his area.

At the time of this writing we are waiting on photos from George Duguid.


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