US Military Shares Religious Celebration in Japan

While much of the recent focus has been on Christmas in Afghanistan (and nativities), members of the US military celebrated another holiday over last month:

Chag Sameach is a common saying heard during the holiday months, it’s Hebrew for “joyous festival,” and is being uttered in abundance in Jewish households all over the world as we enter into the Hanukkah season. It’s a saying also being heard around Camp Sendai, Japan.

The DoD article makes a point of saying those supporting the troops’ religious exercise weren’t exclusively Jewish: 

It is spouting from the joyous mouths of American service members, Jewish and Christian alike, who are here in support of the bi-lateral training exercise…

The celebrations themselves weren’t led by a chaplain, but by a Jewish officer in his office:

Lt. Col. Jerrold Grodin, a cardiologist and Army reservist…celebrated the Jewish festivities here at Camp Sendai with nearly a dozen soldiers…

One participant was a Christian chaplain:

Lt. Col. Robert Nay, deputy command chaplain for U.S. Army Japan…was invited by Grodin to light the first candle on the menorah, a task of high regard.

Though it is often celebrated with less fanfare (and protest), Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays remain an important part of the religious exercise of US troops — exercise protected by the very US military they serve.