|RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE:For when there is only a minute for ministry|
Rev. Ross L. Riggs, DMin. True North Ministries – a counseling service of Riggs Family Ministry 22 May 2012 www.docriggs.com Memorial Day 2012
We had just come from being given VIP status review of a U.S. Navy ship moored in the Navy yard in Providence Rhode Island. Then it was an escort to a Maritime Chapel on base just off the waterfront. The interior was dark and dank, almost like being deep underwater. I couldn’t help but think of the watery grave of those we had come to honor. Their grave must feel something like this chapel. Maybe, though, the chill and cold was in my bones not in the block wall of this chapel that had faced the ravages of the sea coming across the small strip of beach that separated her from the ocean graveyards of which she mourned.
Out of the side entryway a strong deep voice commanded, “Attention” and, as one, the men of the sunken PC1261 came to their feet and snapped to attention. That same deep voice built to a crescendo as he called the roll of the PC1261 as it had been on that fateful day, June 6, 1944; English Channel, destination Juno Beach, Normandy. Every man standing clearly called out “HERE” as their name was called but then every so often, no name responded to the call. The silence seemed to go on forever and then the most beautiful, most ominous sound I believe I have ever or will ever hear in this world broke the silence. It was the clear ringing of the ship’s bell. By the time roll was completed, the ship’s bell rang thirteen times. As I remember, of the survivors of the PC1261 assembled in the chapel that day, June 6, 1964 ‘by chance’ there was thirteen.
The PC1261, an escort vessel, was leading an armada of ships to the beach of Normandy when 24 minutes before H-hour (6:00 a.m.) the PC1261 was hit amid-ship, immediately below the room where radioman 2nd class Ralph Riggs was sitting, on duty, listening to the radio silence of the invasion forces, by either a shore battery or a German U-boat torpedo. The ship immediately listed 90 degrees and quickly took on water. The PC1261 would forever have a new designation, the first Allied ship sunk at the D-Da y invasion.
The stories of that invasion, many recorded for posterity at the Eisenhower Center near New Orléans are less remembered today. They have been replaced by stories from the Nam or Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, Afghan Freedom and more will come. But that day, in the chapel, when that ship’s bell rang out and echoed down those corridors, it became a sound I will always remember. I hope I never forget.