The US Military and Christmas Around the World
A few examples of the US military’s commitment to supporting its servicemembers through their religious celebrations:
At Ali Al Salem in Kuwait, a Christmas Eve candlelight service was the “culminating event over the month of celebration.”
US Army Chief of Chaplains MajGen Donald Rutherford presided over a Christmas Eve Catholic Mass at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Norton Schwartz visited Kunsan Air Base, South Korea during Christmas, where many Airmen are stationed for one-year remotes away from their families. While an article on his trip never mentions Christmas, he did make a point to hand out stockings on Christmas Eve, visit the Airmen on duty on December 25th, and help serve a “holiday” meal on Christmas. The acknowledgement of the troops’ service on Christmas is one indication of the ability of military leaders to support troops’ religious celebrations without regard to official endorsement or the influence of personal religion. As has been publicly stated before, General Schwartz is Jewish.
Air Force SSgt Kristopher Castillobrock’s family home was burglarized and their Christmas gifts stolen — while he was launching missions thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. Once notified, his fellow Airmen back home not only replaced the presents, but also ensured the security of his family.
Soldiers in Afghanistan found time to “celebrate Christmas Eve and Day by participating in worship services and enjoying a full spread at the Forward Operating Base Salerno dining facility.”
The USS Bataan held Christmas decorating contests at sea, and the Chaplains hosted Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations.
The USS Carl Vinson had a shipwide dinner on December 25th cooked in the “hope for all who celebrate Christmas, it will bring back memories of home.”
The USS Whidbey Island “organized a special holiday worship service on Christmas Eve and followed with both Protestant and Catholic worship services Christmas morning.” They also received 14,000 pounds of mail on Christmas Eve.
The USS Mesa Verde‘s ship’s choir went caroling throughout the ship on Christmas.
The articles on all four of those ships indicated senior military members helped serve the Christmas meals, and “giveaways” on each vessel netted thousands of dollars of Kindles, iPads, and a host of other prizes for crewmembers over the season.
Chaplain (LtCmdr) Michael Tomlinson tried to do what he could to help troops during their Christmas in Afghanistan. One way was providing opportunities for worship: “For some faith groups, communion is very important and it is something special we can do for Marines.” Chaplain Capt. Omari Thompson likewise visited many locations providing Christmas services.
The US military also brought Christmas to other parts of the world.
Sailors and Marines of the USS Makin Island visited the “Child at Street 11” care center in Singapore, along with Santa Claus. In what is likely a first for a military news article, it specifically said the organization was “multi-racial, secular, independent, non-profit…”