US Military Supports Jewish Holidays at Sea

Jews in Green highlights the annual push by Kosher Troops to provide “High Holiday package shipments” to Jewish US military personnel around the world.

In the testimonials, there’s a telling thanks:

I want to let you know that your Passover packages arrived on the USS Gonzalez yesterday.  None too soon! We had a challenging Passover, because many of our supplies did not arrive in time…Our Jewish Sailors…were facing the remaining Passover day without foods Kosher for Passover.

Then your packages arrived yesterday. What a blessing from God for our Sailors! I know how much it meant to them, because my roommate is one of the Sailors who went to bed last night and woke this morning to a special package of Passover foods. My enlisted counterpart and I opened all of your packages and prepared special boxes for each Jew aboard.   Thank you for being a part of a miracle for them.”

Very respectfully,
Chaplain Autumn Butler-Saeger, LT, USN

The unique thing about this message is that Chaplain Butler-Saeger isn’t Jewish.  She’s endorsed by the Presbyterians.  As many stories have told, however, the US military seeks to provide for the religious freedom of its troops wherever they are, and military chaplains do an admirable job of supporting that freedom — even when they don’t share the faith of the troops they serve.

Interestingly, Chaplain Butler-Saeger was also credited with coordinating a visit from a Catholic Priest when her ship visited Djibouti.

Brig. Gen. Patrick J. Dolan toured the ship, celebrated Mass, and ministered to the crew.

“Opportunities to have Mass celebrated aboard while on an independent deployer are rare,” said Lt. Autumn Butler-Saeger, Gonzalez’s Chaplain. “We were thrilled to have the priest here.”

Much like Jewish services, Catholic services on ships at sea — particularly those not assigned to a larger group — are often led by lay leaders, as there are no chaplains of those faiths (in some cases, any faith) available.

Chaplain Butler-Saeger is to be congratulated for her proactive protection of the religious liberties of the Sailors she serves.