An Eagle Scout’s connection to the Four Chaplains story

For his Eagle Scout project, Gregory Voce of Troop 97 wanted to revive local awareness about the Four Chaplains, and honor the 674 men who died when USAT Dorchester sank in the North Atlantic 80 years ago this month. Among those lost was Voce’s great-grandfather, Frank Voce.

In 2021, Voce met with officers at William E. DeBevoise Jr. American Legion Post 1682 in New City, N.Y., where his late grandfather was a member. With the post’s support, he raised more than $4,000 to do landscape work and install an outdoor plaque describing how Army Lts. Alexander Goode (Jewish rabbi), George Fox (Methodist minister), Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed minister) and John Washington (Roman Catholic priest) gave up their life jackets to save others. 

“A lot of people have told me they’d never heard the story, and that was one of my goals: to educate the community,” Voce said. “I think it’s serving its purpose.”

Local and state politicians attended last spring’s dedication of the plaque, including former New York State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick. “He said he’d never heard the story and was so happy he came by,” said Voce’s father, Greg. “It inspired him. That’s what we were driving for. When you first hear it, it gets to you. Those were true heroes.”

The elder Voce’s parents took him to a Four Chaplains interfaith memorial service at a different house of worship every year, and that tradition continues with his own family. He’s been reminded of their connection to the story at other places, too – touring West Point, where the post chapel has a stained glass window depicting the Four Chaplains, and outside Riverside Church in Harlem, where he found a historical marker on the lawn near trees planted in the chaplains’ memory.

Voce’s son chose to mount his own Four Chaplains memorial plaque honoring on a boulder across from Post 1682’s entrance. The project involved months of fundraising and dozens of volunteer hours, and post leaders were thrilled with the result, his father says. 

“It was a lot of work, and I’m proud he did it. It really is going to be here forever.”

Post 1682 is the home post of American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola.