Chapel, Basic Training, Doughnuts and Lemonade

“I never attended services in the civilian world. But all that changed when I joined the Army.”

Jake Kohlman thought religious services during basic training would be a good excuse to get away from the military training instructors.  He was right.  But he was also renewed in his faith.  As it turns out, many trainees may have gone just for the doughnuts:

After the service we filed into the parking lot, where some kind, older veterans had set up picnic tables with lemonade and doughnuts. Now I understood why the service was so popular…The doughnut I had that day was the best I’d ever had.

Turns out some other trainees caught on:

Eventually, word leaked out to the rest of the company about the doughnuts and lemonade, and by the end of Basic, 65 soldiers from my company alone were marching to services on Sunday…’

Chris Rodda of Michael Weinstein’s MRFF has previously said Christian organizations tempted people in with pizza and ice cream (and then apparently hypnotized them over to the dark side).  She even dubbed it “conversion by temptation,” but she failed to acknowledge the “practice” is not unique to Christianity.

After all, the 65 soldiers attending religious services for doughnuts and lemonade weren’t attending a Christian service.

It was Jewish.

Regardless, the impact of the spiritual support provided by the Jewish service during basic training was not only extremely beneficial to his training, it has given him a spiritual support continuing through the rest of his career:

I still have the Torah the chaplain gave me that first Sunday. I kept it with me through every bit of training I did after Basic: Officer Candidate School, Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, Ranger School, and finally Airborne School. It’s always there when I need it. It’s seen better days—the cover is battered, some of the pages are dog-eared—but all in all, it’s held up remarkably well through patrols, battle drills, and marches.
Last week, I deployed to Afghanistan, with my Torah safely packed in my assault pack. My Forward Operating Base has Jewish services at 1830 hours, every Friday. I don’t know if they’ll serve lemonade and doughnuts this time, but either way, I’ll be there.

The US military does an admirable job of supporting the religious freedom of its troops — even in basic training.  Protecting that free exercise in basic can have a lasting impact on troops’ entire military careers.

Lt Jake Kohlman’s full article is well worth the read.

Via Jews in Green.

One comment

  • Shouldn’t there be a comparable “service” for secular members of the armed forces?

    I remember, during my basic, how wonderful the reprieve from the instructors was. I fell *out* of faith before, during, and after attending those religious services, but I still attended them with relish. We didn’t have coffee or doughnuts, but it was a surefire way of getting an hour to write letters or sleep or anything really, while away from the people who’ve been tormenting you for weeks (I kid, they weren’t even near that bad).

    The other option was to stay back with your instructors. Granted, they gave you time to do what you please (no sleeping, though – that was definitely exclusive to religious services) and write letters and whatnot. Clearly, though, there was a particular advantage in attending religious services as opposed to not doing so.

    So, in the vein of providing similar services for all members of the armed forces during basic training, shouldn’t secular soldiers be provided some sort of service away from instructors (wow, alliteration)?