In this, the 235th anniversary of the birth of the United States, it will be commonplace to recall the courageous resolution

of the Philadelphia founders as they embarked on a course of revolution against the British crown. In particular, we will note the founders' own recognition of the impending danger as we read their immortal closing lines: “we pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Their commitment to national independence was total, undiluted by selfish considerations, and dear enough that they would be prepared to pay the ultimate price to have it. America, from its very conception, was worth any sacrifice. Today, I am reminded not only of the founders' pledge but also of the many others who knew – even if only abstractly – the value of this nation, and who also offered their lives on its behalf. For some, destiny accepted that offer; for others it did not. However, each of them provides powerful and perpetual witness to the fact that America – founded for freedom and right – demands unceasing vigilance by us all. Please God, we may never be called on to overcome the crises met by these singular Americans, but we should glory in the fact that they were called and answered with an integrity that will be a model for our people throughout the centuries. Here are several of them. --- In the freezing early morning hours of February 3, 1943, a convoy of three US Army transport ships slowly steamed its way approximately 100 miles off the coast of Greenland, escorted by three Coast Guard cutters. The military had nicknamed the area “Torpedo Alley” and with good cause. At around 1:00 AM, German U-boat 223 fired three long-range torpedoes, one of which slammed directly into the mid-hull of the USS Dorchester. More than 900 American soldiers were on board, including four exceptional chaplains: Catholic priest John Washington, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Methodist minister George Fox and Dutch Reformed minister Clark Poling. Within moments, the chaplains were on deck, braving burning oil and ammonia fumes to organize the troops for evacuation. They began passing out life vests, and eventually discovered there were not enough. They then did what men of God would do: all four chaplains removed their own life vests and gave them to others. Witnesses who saw the “Immortal Chaplains” for the last time reported that the four men had joined arm-in-arm, praying for the rescue of the troops as the Dorchester dropped into the sea. Nearly 700 troops were lost in those bone-freezing waters of the North Atlantic – and 230 survived. In 1960, Congress created a onetime Medal of Valor for the chaplains, posthumously presented to their families. --- Less than a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, five men strode energetically into the Navy recruitment office in Des Moines, Iowa, January 3, 1942. They were the brothers Sullivan: Joe, Frank, Matt, Al, and oldest brother, George, also known as “Red.” In their hometown of Waterloo, they were the epitome of young, Irish toughs, as keen to jump into a brawl as walk down the street. They were also inseparable, a fact made clear to the Navy recruiters when the brothers insisted that they would only join if they could serve together. Despite a Navy policy of separating siblings, all five of the brothers were assigned to the USS Juneau in the South Pacific. On November 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw. As it retreated, a second torpedo hit the Juneau's ammunition magazine and it instantly exploded. Frank, Joe and Matt Sullivan were killed that day. Al Sullivan drowned 24 hours later awaiting rescue. Oldest brother George, overwhelmed by grief and driven to madness, later jumped over the side of his life raft four or five days later. He was never seen again. On January 12, 1943, the Sullivans' father, Tom was

interrupted from going to work by a visit from a Navy lieutenant commander, “I have news for you about your boys.” “Which one?” the father said. “I'm sorry,” the officer replied, “All five.” To this day, the Navy operates an Aegis guided missile destroyer ship called the USS The Sullivans. Its motto: “We stick together.” --- Dying for one's country confers indisputable nobility. Yet, just as much can be conferred on those who live for their country. In the annals of patriotic heroism, few stand in line before Jesuit priest Joseph T. O'Callahan, professor of mathematics at Boston College. Father O'Callahan joined the Navy in 1940 and by August, earned the rank of lieutenant in the chaplain corps. In March 1945, he reported aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Franklin. Seventeen days later, the Franklin was hit with two bombs dropped from a lone Japanese aircraft. In seconds, the hangar deck burst into flames and the ship's ammunition exploded. Father

O'Callahan was severely wounded by a subsequent explosion, yet while bleeding and in mortal pain, he moved deliberately around the burning deck administering the Last Rites to wounded sailors. The danger was not over, however, as more fires threatened the ship's interior magazines and shells rolled about on the severely listing deck. O'Callahan quickly gathered whoever he could, and with bare hands, passed superheated shells to the others so they could be jettisoned into the sea. He personally organized a damage control team that soaked the other ammunition holds with sea water to prevent them from exploding. Thousands of lives were saved by this one Jesuit priest whom his shipmates would universally describe as “the bravest man I ever saw.”Congress agreed, and made O'Callahan the first chaplain of any creed and of any war in history to receive the Medal of Honor. --- Finally, no review of this type can conclude without the story of William Harvey Carney. Born a negro slave in 1840 Virginia, Carney was able to attend a secret school where he was taught to read and write. While still in his teens, Carney used the Underground Railroad to make his way to Massachusetts and freedom. He was later able to transport the rest of his family. On New Years Day, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and Carney soon joined the Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry to fight the Confederacy which had once held him enslaved. The Massachusetts 54th would get their first, greatest test on July 18th, 1863 at the Battle of Fort Wagner, Charleston, South Carolina. During the daylight hours, the infantry took positions on the sandy beach north of the fort and waited for the command to attack. It came within hours, and Carney and his brothers ran headlong at the building. The Confederates were waiting, however, and opened fire. Soldiers began dropping to Carney's right and left. One of those was Sergeant John Walls, who had the honor of carrying the stars and stripes to lead the infantry. As Walls was about to fall, Carney came behind him and grabbed the flag before it reached the sand. Within seconds, a bullet sliced through Carney's left leg. He paused only a moment, ignored the pain and blood, lifted the colors high and ran at full speed to reach the fort's entrance. He drove the flagpole firmly into the ground and looked about for the others – but there were none. He alone

had reached the parapet. For a full 30 minutes, Carney watched and bled as the battle went on. Soon he saw some men approaching from his left, and believing them to be Union, he raised the flag high and waved it. They were Confederates – and Carney was forced to wind the flag around the pole and run for cover. He ended up chest-deep in a watery ditch, pushing his wounded leg to its limit and holding the flag above his head. A bullet bore into his chest. Another hit his arm. A third bit into his right leg. Carney soon encountered a soldier from New York's 100th who offered to carry the flag for him, but Carney insisted that only a member of the Massachusetts 54th should carry their colors. Carney reached safety amid the cheers of his remaining comrades, and as he collapsed before them, said, “Boys, I only did my duty. The flag never touched the ground.” The flag never touched the ground. Is there a better metaphor for our 4th of July than that phrase or that bravery? For 235 years, the flag has dipped, rose, been torn, re-sewn, re-designed, carried, burned, and folded over countless coffins, yet – like the country it calls home - has never fallen to the ground. Carney survived the Civil War and lived out his life as a postal worker in his Massachusetts home. In 1900, he became the first black American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – a dignified, peaceful final chapter for one of the greatest lives in American history. For us, in our own way, we too must carry the colors of this country despite the enemies that have plagued it throughout history. The men described here were not presidents or statesmen, but were founders nonetheless, and in real, corporal terms pledged their lives and sacred honor for the American ideal. Now, their spirits turn, gaze earnestly into our eyes, and ask: will we do the same?