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©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
All rights reserved. Including the right of reproduction in whole or part in any form

 

THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION

"Nothing that I can do or say will, in any sense, requite the loss of your loved one. He is gone, but he has gone in honor and in the goodly company of patriots". 

Those words were written to the survivors of servicemen who were killed in action during World War II.  I know, because my mother received such a letter from the War Shipping Administration.
My father was a merchant seaman on the Esso Tanker R.W. Gallagher on July 13, 1942.  He was killed when two torpedoes sank his ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

His name is inscribed in calligraphy in the Roll of Honor Book that is kept in the Mariner's Chapel at the Merchant Marine Academy, King's Point, New York.   That book contains the name, rank, or rating, ship and date of sinking of each of the 7,031 officers and seamen who lost their lives on merchant ships during both World Wars. Each day, an Academy midshipman ceremoniously turns a page of the Book so that the names will be symbolically remembered.

When visiting King's Point, a visitor's brochure explains: "The Mariner's Chapel belongs to the American people. It stands as one of our country's only National Memorial to America's wartime seamen and serves to remind America of the great sacrifices of those merchant mariners who go down to the sea in ships, especially in time of war."

I was an infant when my father was killed in action. I never knew him in this life. When I visited King's Point a few years ago, I visited the Mariner's Chapel.  There is a list of the names that are written in the book for visitors to examine. I was honored to find the name of my father listed.

On Thursday, November 2, 2000, the name of Police Officer Matthew Dziergowski was dedicated on the NYPD Memorial Wall in Battery Park City.  The family of Officer Dziergowski was present as members of the 123rd Precinct and the NYPD Honor Guard saluted the memory of a fellow police officer.  Matty had, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, given "the last full measure of devotion" by laying down his life for his friends.Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Dunne presided over the ceremony and paid homage to a brave man:


Officer Matthew Dziergowski- "On February 14 of last year, Officer Dziergowski was assisting fellow officers at the scene of an accident on the West Shore Expressway on Staten Island.  After placing cones and flares in the roadway to divert traffic, Officer Dziergowski positioned his vehicle so as to protect his fellow officers still on the scene.  Suddenly, a vehicle came speeding through the cones and flares, headed directly at his colleagues.  Having no time to warn his fellow officers, Officer Dziergowski did the only thing he could to save their lives - he drove his vehicle directly into the path of the speeding vehicle.  He blocked the other car from crashing through the accident scene.  He undoubtedly saved the lives of his fellow officers - including his partner of 12 years. And in the process, he made the ultimate sacrifice."



On September 25, 2000, Officer Dziergowski was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Officer Dziergowski was only 38 years of age.  His wife and two sons survive him.  Maria Dziergowski said that she visits the NYPD Memorial wall often with her sons and is very proud to see his name inscribed on the memorial.  I know that many years from now, her sons will continue to gain some solace from the knowledge that the name of their father will never be forgotten. He is forever in the goodly company of his fellow cops who gave "the last full measure of devotion".

Copyright © 2000 Edward D. Reuss

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