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Parkersburg man receives Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion

From left, Sherry Thompson, volunteer coordinator for Housecalls Hospice in Parkersburg, makes a presentation Wednesday from Housecalls to Jerry Smith and his wife Linda on the occasion of Jerry Smith receiving the Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains for volunteerism. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

PARKERSBURG — A Parkersburg man received an award Wednesday for volunteerism from an organization with roots to the sacrifice of four U.S. Army chaplains in World War II.

Jerry Smith received the Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains for his volunteerism through Housecalls Hospice and impacting numerous veterans in the region.

Often the last time the veteran smiles is during a visit, said Smith, who was appreciative of the award.

“If we can get a smile, our job that day was a success,” he said at the award assembly at Housecalls Hospice.

Participating were members of the Marine Corps League, representatives from Housecalls Hospice and Paul DeBerry, commandant of the Disabled American Veterans in West Virginia.

From left, Scott Kirby, past commandant of the Marine Corps League in West Virginia, places the Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains on Jerry Smith. The award cites Smith for his volunteerism with residents and many veterans through Housecalls Hospice. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

Smith received a plaque and a medallion from Mike McLain, a past recipient of the award, and Scott Kirby, past commandant of the Marine Corps League in West Virginia.

“Jerry does so much for the community,” Kirby said.

Smith has performed thousands of hours of volunteer service, Kirby said.

“We appreciate everything you do,” said Sherry Thompson, volunteer coordinator for Housecalls Hospice.

The Chapel of the Four Chaplains was created after WWII to honor the sacrifice of four Army chaplains who died in the sinking of the SS Dorcester in February 1943. The chaplains were George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington.

From the left, Scott Kirby, past commandant of the Marine Corps League in West Virginia, Jerry Smith and Paul DeBerry with the Disabled American Veterans in West Virginia during a ceremony Wednesday when Smith received the Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

A civilian ship converted to military use, the Dorcester could carry about 900 passengers and crewmen. She was torpedoed by U-Boat 223 near the coast of Newfoundland.

With chaos on deck, men jumped into the lifeboats, many over capacity and many drifting away before the soldiers could reach them.

Fox, Goode, Poling and Washington prayed and helped as many soldiers as they could into the lifeboats. At the end, they gave their life jackets to the soldiers when no more were available.

The chaplains, arm in arm, prayed and sang hymns as the Dorcester sank into the ocean, taking them to their deaths.

The chaplains posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross. They were nominated for the Medal of Honor, however, the medal requires the recipient to be in combat with an enemy. Congress in 1960 created the Four Chaplains Medal that was given to their families.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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