Four army chaplains gave their lives to help others 65 years ago as the USS Dorchester sank in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, has been given an award in their memory for his 38 years in public office.
The Four Chaplains Memorial Service and Brotherhood Award is given annually by the Albany Post 105 of the Jewish War Veterans.
This year’s ceremony was at the Sam Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Sunday.
McNulty said he has attended more than 20 services honoring others with the award over the years and that it was overwhelming to be on the receiving end this time.
“Any time I’m in the presence of this many veterans I’m kind of in awe,” he said. “I’ve always endeavored to be one of their friends through the years because they’re responsible for the life I have today.”
McNulty, 60, is the 43rd recipient of the award. Numerous elected officials and dozens of his supporters attended Sunday’s event.
“Michael, you have been a champion for all of us who live in your district,” said Albany County Executive Mike Breslin. “Thank you for your service.”
The award recognizes the sacrifice made by Rabbi Alexander Goode, the Rev. George Fox, the Rev. John Washington and the Rev. Clark Poling, who were aboard the Dorchester in 1943 when it was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine off the coast of Greenland.
Poling was from the Dutch Reformed Church in Schenectady.
Survivors of the attack said that the chaplains calmly helped distribute life jackets and guide sailors to life boats.
The chaplains gave their own life jackets to the next men in line when the supply ran out and survivor John Ladd said “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” according to the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation.
Witnesses said the chaplains linked arms and prayed together on the deck of the Dorchester as it sank beneath the oil-stained water.
Each of the four chaplains received The Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart in 1944 after their deaths.
Of the 904 men aboard the Dorchester, 672 died in the attack.
“Comparing me to any veteran or any member of the clergy, they all go above and beyond the call of duty,” McNulty said. “I just did my duty.”
McNulty started his political career in 1969 when he became the youngest person ever elected supervisor in Green Island at age 22.
He eventually moved up to the state Assembly and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1988.
McNulty announced last fall that he will retire from the 23rd Congressional District at the end of his term next January, citing health concerns. He said he hopes his successor shares his priorities.
“We often send military personnel into very dangerous situations,” he said. “We need to make sure when they come home they get the help that they need. Sometimes we haven’t been doing enough in that regard and I hope we do a little more for them.”
VA Medical Center Chaplain Rabbi Susan Gulack said that McNulty’s long career shows that he has a spirit of giving.
“Many people give in order to get,” she said. “That’s not the sense that I have of Mike McNulty.”
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Categories: Schenectady County