An Air Force article from Iraq notes that military Chaplains served all religions this past holiday-filled December:
Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans all observe major holy days in December. Air Force chaplains here spent much of the month making sure everyone in the diverse Joint Base Balad community had an opportunity to worship according to their beliefs.
The article includes a picture of Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Cohen, the wing Jewish Chaplain, with a Magen David Menorah, as well as officers observing a candlelit Christmas Eve service there. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Terese Erickson, the deputy wing chaplain in Balad, noted that
Accommodation means making sure everyone has an opportunity to worship…
and supported those words with her actions:
Army Spc. William Corum…is one of three lay leaders for a group of Wiccans and Pagans that meets here… Read more…
An AF.mil article highlights a round-the-clock team of Chaplains and assistants who minister to the patients at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
They visit and pray with patients and the medical staff, and “set the tone” for caring for the deceased in accordance with the servicemember’s religion.
The religious support team accommodates everyone’s religious needs, Chaplain Rome said. Outside their office one can find different translations of the Bible, the Quran in — English and Arabic — and a Book of Mormon.
In an unusually moving story, the AP covers soldiers in Iraq spending their second consecutive Christmas away from their families (as they continue on their 15-month deployment). For some, it is their third in four years away from home.
“A lot of guys struggle to find meaning in Christmas. I keep reminding them what it’s about. It’s a season of hope,” said chaplain Capt. Matt Hemrick, of Belmont, North Carolina, on Christmas Eve.
Both President Bush and President-elect Obama (text and video) offered Christmas messages to the troops. Interestingly, both also referenced George Washington’s Christmas night crossing of the Deleware, as did the Joint Chiefs of Staff just a few days ago–though the current Commander-in-Chief and his incoming replacement still managed to use the word “Christmas” when referring to December 25th.
President Bush also offered a message for Kwanzaa.
As also covered at the Religion Clause.
Updated: Ed Brayton picked up the story for his blog, where commenters varied from ardent detractors to the supportive.
As noted at Jews in Green, a Messianic Jewish Chaplain candidate withdrew from Chaplain training after being told by the Navy that he would be required to wear the Christian cross, rather than the tablets worn by Jewish Chaplains.
In the 12 December article about candidate Michael Hiles, Rabbi Eric Tokajer says
This decision essentially bars Messianic Jews from serving as chaplains within the U.S. Navy because it would require them to wear an insignia inconsistent with their faith and belief system.
As noted at CNN, this week is the 40th Anniversary of the flight of Apollo 8–the first space flight to circle the moon. Interestingly, CNN notes that the trip was one on which an “inspirational and soothing” event occurred:
Apollo 8 also produced what to many was one of the most inspirational and soothing moments in history when Lovell and crewmates Frank Borman and William A. Anders took turns reading from the Book of Genesis. It was Christmas Eve and the whole world was watching. NASA said at the time it was expected to be the largest TV audience to date.
The astronauts signed off with these words: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth.”
This same “inspirational” event was marked by a lawsuit in the US which influenced further “religious” acts in space, as previously discussed.
Jim Lovell was the third crewmember on Apollo 8; he is perhaps more famous for his role on Apollo 13, one of three astronauts that was supposed to land on the moon but never did.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen distributed a holiday message this week.
Notably, the Admiral successfully managed to write about the 232-year history of the military during this “season”–including the 25 December 1776 Delaware river crossing of George Washington–without mentioning “Christmas” or any other holiday celebration.
During a recent exercise, a unit that was simulating deploying to the war zone trudged its way through the processing line. A deployment processing line is made up of a half dozen manned stations where deployers make sure they are ready to depart. Personnelists check paperwork, medics administer shots, lawyers update wills, and family care representatives make sure deployers have their family affairs in order.
One station is manned by a Chaplain. During this particular line, as in many, the Chaplain had camouflage New Testaments, Torahs, and guides on handling stress and separation on the table in front of him. He chatted with each military member as they went by, seeing how they were doing. Though he never proffered the materials in front of him, several members picked up a New Testament from the stack on the table.
One military member, however, pointed out an omission. There were no religious materials that served him, a Hindu. Read more…
Two Chaplains have recently come under fire from Michael Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. One of Weinstein’s surrogates, Jason Leopold, has distributed a commentary on two Chaplains, one who was in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. Both were videotaped in TV shows, and it is the content of those videos with which Weinstein finds offense. Read more…
Fisher DeBerry was the US Air Force Academy’s head football coach for 23 years. He turned the USAFA football team into a national powerhouse, and he riled some people for his outspoken Christianity while working with young military cadets.
DeBerry’s For God and Country is part autobiography, part witness. It describes his upbringing and career as head coach, and also his philosophy as a Christian in public life. His chapter on “Faith” is a wonderful read in which he says “we have our missions fields right here,” and encourages Christians to “spread the word daily by how we live and conduct ourselves:”
You don’t have to beat your chest and proclaim “I’m a Christian” to everyone you meet. But you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Being a Christian has everything to do with how you approach life and the way you treat people…
Read the full review.
The AF Chief of Staff and Command Chief recently emphasized an opportunity for enlisted Airmen to attend the AF Academy. The Academy sets aside a certain number of slots each year specifically for prior-enlisted cadets.
The basic application criteria for Airmen is they must be less than 23 years of age by July 1 for entry to the Academy or less than 22 years of age by July 1 for entry to the Preparatory School; be unmarried; be a U.S. citizen or be able to obtain citizenship prior to entry; and have no dependents.
A recent Armed Forces Press article notes the efforts by military leaders to stave off increases in military divorce rates. According to the article, approximately 58% of military members are married, and there is an approximately 3.5% divorce rate.
While praising the benefits these programs offer families, officials said they recognize that strong marital and family relationships make better Soldiers.
It also has an important impact on a soldier’s decision to re-enlist…The Army recruits Soldiers, but it retains families.
There are a wide variety of programs, many of which are run by the Chaplaincy. The article includes praise for the US Army’s “Strong Bonds.” Strong Bonds is a Chaplain-run program that has come under fire Read more…
The relatively quiet ceremony on the National Mall stands in contrast to the Washington State Capitol, where a holiday tree became a Christmas tree which inspired the erection of a Menorah and a lawsuit installed a Nativity scene. (The annual arguments are becoming so regular that the Seattle Times has called them the “holiday tradition.”)
More controversially, an atheist sign has joined the Christmas display. While many have supported and even encouraged the free expression of the atheists, some have taken issue with the adversarial nature of the sign, which some say demeans the other celebrations present in the display Read more…
President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush lit the national Christmas tree for the last time this year. Notably, there was no attempt to obscure the “Christmas” nature of the Christmas tree. During the ceremony, which takes place at the tree planted on the Ellipse of the Washington Memorial, President Bush said
The simple story we remember during the season speaks to every generation. It is the story of a humble birth in a quiet town, and the story of one life that changed millions more. For two millennia, the story of Christmas has brought joy to families, comfort to communities, and hope to hearts around the world.
He then turned his attention, as he often does, to the men and women in the Armed Forces: Read more…
A Del Rio, TX, church has created an interesting concept in “Operation M’Brace,” in which people are encouraged to purchase a metal bracelet with the name of a US military member as a “daily reminder” to pray for them. The bracelets appear to be fashioned in the same way as the POW/MIA bracelets worn by many as a a way to remember the POWs during the Vietnam War.
Del Rio is the home of Laughlin Air Force Base, one of the primary pilot training bases in the USAF.
As noted at OneNewsNow.