A lesser-known day of remembrance occurs each year on Feb. 3, Four Chaplains’ Day. Established by Congress in 1988, the day commemorates four Army Chaplains who heroically gave up their own life jackets and attempted to organize an evacuation of a sinking ship during World War II.
The chaplains, Lt. George L. Fox, Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Lt. John P. Washington and Lt. Clark V. Poling were honored by a special act of congress commissioning a unique medal as well as a postage stamp carrying their picture.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the chaplains’ sacrifice, therefore Rear Admiral Darold Bigger and his wife Barbara will discuss their own personal heroism, a journey from anger to forgiveness, on Feb. 3 at 10 a.m at Grace Church. A complementary lunch will be provided.
“It seemed fitting,” said Glenn Aufderhar, organizer of the event. “To remember the spirit of the four chaplains by providing a ‘life vest,’ so to speak, to stay afloat in the sea of animosity and acrimony raging around us at times.”
Few will ever stand on the deck of a sinking ship and face the decision the four chaplains did, but everyone will have to decide how to act in a time of extreme challenge. For most, that challenge comes when faced with acts of violence. Should the event be met with anger or with forgiveness?
“It takes as much courage to forgive when we feel anger as it does to give up your life vest. But this kind of courage has a happier ending,” Vicar of the Grace Episcopal Church Rev. Nancy Wynen said.
If any two people have the right to retaliate for a random act of brutality and its unjust aftermath it’s the Biggers. Their daughter Shannon was brutally murdered by a stranger in her apartment just days before she was to return home to Washington state after completing an internship in Washington, D.C. They will recount the waves of grief and anger that swept over them because of this senseless act itself and the injustice that followed.
“No one would ever choose to go through what we did with Shannon’s loss,” said Darold. “But that personal experience was more helpful than the academic training in meeting the needs of others in crisis.”
The Biggers’ seminar, “A Time To Forgive,” relates their emotional journey from grief and revenge to the satisfying peace of forgiveness.
The Navy sent both Biggers to Dover Air Force Base to be with the families meeting the bodies of their loved ones killed in Yemen on the USS Cole bombing in 2000.
Darold was working in his office across from the Pentagon on 9/11 when the plane struck. He was asked by the Navy to minister to the survivors. Then he was sent to New York to encourage chaplains and recovery workers following the fall of the twin towers.
At some time in your life you will experience injustice, anger, pain or grief. How you respond to those physical or emotional injuries will largely determine your healing, health and happiness.
“In a world awash with animosity and acrimony we have to learn how to cope into a way that may to turn people who hurt us into friends that help us,” said organizers. “Forgiveness is the door to that new world.”
Darold, who has a doctorate in pastoral counseling, a master’s degree in social work and is a certified family therapist, has served as director of chaplains and religious and ethical matters for more than a thousand sailors, marines and coast guard reservists for 30 years. Barbara Bigger, who has a master’s in secondary counseling, ran her own interior design business while helping her husband through his graduate degree.
Lopez Pastors and local professionals are invited to participate in a community discussion of grief, forgiveness and the future.
“Perhaps this will be the most important monument to the heroic act of the four chaplains that we on Lopez can erect,” said Ron Fowler, leader of the Lopez Adventist Fellowship, a co-sponsor of the seminar.