US Military Celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah Around the World

Sometimes lost in the “scandals” regarding religion in the US military is the fact that religion is still practiced frequently, and freely, by US troops around the world.

For example, in a variety of locations the US military supported Christmas celebrations, operations, and events. Notably, the camera often pointed away from some of the more direct Christmas iconography — but it was there.

Such discretion apparently wasn’t necessary for the worldwide celebration of Hanukkah, in which US troops were photographed celebrating the Jewish holiday from Japan to Afghanistan. Yes, even though the practice of Judaism on Afghan soil might “embolden America’s adversaries”, the US military still proudly supports it.

In a related story, religious exercise of US troops was important enough for Air Force Chaplain (Maj) Aaron Meadows that he held an inflight worship service for Airmen aboard a C-17 on a transatlantic flight.

Worshiping together helped to build, not only a community but helped people to become spiritually fulfilled.

“Having an opportunity to engage in worship allows Airmen to become spiritually fulfilled and return home on a good note after a tiring mission,” said Meadows…

“With a grateful heart, Uncle Sam pays me to care for the spiritual needs of all Airmen regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof,” Meadows said. “Seeing the lives we are able to impact and the way we see God’s kingdom grow through our ministry really encourages me in the work I do.”

And it’s not just Judaism and Christianity. Earlier this year Navy recruits at Great Lakes were able to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. The US military even participated in explicitly religious ceremonies in Japan, saying the Japanese religious traditions will “bring us good luck.”  So while some critics would like to claim the US military is overtly — or coercively — Christian, it seems that, with a few notable exceptions, religion, religious exercise, and religious liberty are alive and well in the US military, and the troops seem happy with it.

Also at the Stars and Stripes.


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