Air Force Chief Targets Bible in POW Memorial, IG Defends It

A long-running US military tradition is the POW/MIA table.  While often a discrete event at formal functions such as military dinings-in, many dining facilities maintain a continuous POW/MIA table within their facilities.  There are actually many variations on the display, though one of the more common ones follows:

The table is round – to show our everlasting concern for our missing men (and women).

The tablecloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.

The vase is tied with a yellow ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolized the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

(Optional) The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

This glass is inverted – to symbolize their inability to share this evening‘s (morning‘s/day‘s) toast.

The chairs are empty – they are missing.

The recently promoted Chief Master Sergeant — a military atheist with his “own little battles” of religion in the Air Force — took issue when he saw this display in his local dining facility, which included the Bible:

First visit to the DFAC, and I discover that every single POW in US history was apparently a Christian or Catholic.

Despite his long and illustrious career, the Chief has apparently never seen this version of the display before — or realized it was specifically authorized by Air Force guidance.  The script of the ceremony above comes from AFPAM 34-1202, Guide to Protocol, which was updated just this year.

So the Chief complained to Military Equal Opportunity and the Inspector General.  Because there was a Bible on the table.

Two younger enlisted troops suggested to their superior Chief that he surreptitiously contribute other material to the traditional display:

From a young soldier:

I’d (discreetly) plop a Book of Morman [sic], a Torah, a Koran, and The Portable Atheist on top of that Bible. Juuuust to make a point.

And an enlisted Air Force paralegal:

And the satanic bible. Im sure that would make them rethink their position.

Keep in mind that they’re talking about a solemn display intended to memorialize captured and missing American troops.  This is how the Chief reminds them of the gravity of what the display is intended to commemorate:

I have a Quran, Gospel of the FSM, and some Buddhist literature to contribute to the table!

Classy.  A 20-year Chief Master Sergeant joins the younger enlisted troops in mocking a memorial to the sacrifices of US troops captured and missing in war.

Whether you agree with the inclusion of a Bible or not, there’s no reason concerns cannot be communicated in a professional manner.  There’s also no reason a Chief Master Sergeant, who clearly presented himself as such to the group, shouldn’t advise the troops subordinate to him to maintain professionalism even if they disagree.

To be fair, there’s a reason Bibles are included in many POW/MIA displays:  Religious faith is one of the most commonly cited tools of resilience that helped POWs through their captivity.

For example, the longest-held enlisted Prisoner of War in American history — US Air Force Capt (Ret) William Robinson, said

I lived on what I referred to as faith.  There were four.  One was faith in myself.  Two was faith in those around me. Three was faith in my country.  And four was faith in my God.

The Chief doesn’t have to like the fact Capt Robinson relied on his “sky fairy” through his captivity.  He doesn’t have to agree with the Bible on the table.  But he could at least show professional courtesy and a modicum of respect, as well as encourage that in those who are clearly looking to him for guidance:

Chief, keep us updated on what you do.

Ultimately, the Chief complained to EO and the IG — who both said the display was acceptable.  The Chief seemed disappointed:

After consultation, the EO and IG concur that regulations allow the senior commander the option to display the KJV Bible despite complaints, the absence of other sectarian tomes, or any secular purpose.

But he found a fellow antagonist in atheist-agitator Jason Torpy, who is never one to pass up an opportunity to be offended — or see a Christian conspiracy.  Torpy said it was

Definitely an egregious example of Christian nation evangelism written into military regulations.

Right.  Somebody put the Bible on the POW/MIA table not because of its symbolic significance, but to convert people to Christianity.  Despite the illogical basis for his offense, Torpy also called it

red meat for Paul Loebe and Blake Page

who are the current Marine Sergeant and West Point dropout, respectively, most publicly representing Michael Weinstein’s MRFF.  Because, as the nation saw with Chaplain (LtCol) Reyes, the MRFF isn’t defending religious freedom — it is attacking even the slightest reference to “faith” with which they do not agree.

Remember, too, that Weinstein claims Christians are the persecutors and non-Christians the “victims” in the US military — yet repeated examples seem to show the script reversed.

Learn about Capt Robinson’s story here, courtesy of the US Air Force.  To date, the Air Force has not censored Capt Robinson’s references to “faith,” but there’s still time for Weinstein to make his case.

9 replies to “Air Force Chief Targets Bible in POW Memorial, IG Defends It

  1. Mike

    “Whether you agree with the inclusion of a Bible or not, there’s no reason concerns cannot be communicated in a professional manner. There’s also no reason a Chief Master Sergeant, who clearly presented himself as such to the group, shouldn’t advise the troops subordinate to him to maintain professionalism even if they disagree.”

    I agree, the E-9 could have communicated his offense in a professional manner. Instead he chose the more inflammatory route. Thats not leadership of a Chief, but the work of an E-9.

  2. Kristopher Flory

    Hey! I was involved in this conversation on MASH Facebook, why didn’t you quote my comments?

    Also I’m pretty sure this thing was about the display at the Camp Lemonnier GALLEY, its a US Navy operated post.

    1. JD

      @Kristopher Flory
      You had said “Huh… I forgot about theses [sic] displays! They had them in Iraq but I don’t remember about Djibouti.”

      That contributed nothing to the discussion above. As to whether it was Djibouti or a “GALLEY,” the quotes above are accurate.

  3. Jim Jones

    “The vase is tied with a yellow ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.”

    Actually it’s the symbol of a cheesy song, loosely based on the real life(?) example of a criminal returning from a stay in a US prison to see white handkerchiefs on a tree (Reader’s Digest).

    There must be something better than this.

  4. T. Jefferson

    ” talking about a solemn display intended to memorialize captured and missing American troops”
    one that ignores or disparages any that troops that are not Christian.
    one that provides the other religious folk we are fighting with a propaganda victory, further endangering our troops.

    Religious people have murdered my countrymen in the twin towers, shot abortion clinic doctors for providing legal services, raped hundreds of little boys, and then they squawk that they are under attack if anyone attempts to push back, no matter how politely.

  5. John

    Putting the bible on the table is a mockery. Completely unsat. I’ve never seen this, from Norfolk to Pearl, not once. Do you know how many Jews (obviously there are others, but Jews alone should make this point) have laid down their lives for this country, disappeared into oceans and jungles for you? And you put some partisan garbage like this on their shrine? WTF is wrong with you people? Typical chair force. You should be reabsorbed into the Army where someone with half a brain and two functioning balls can keep an eye on you.

    EN2 (SW)

    1. JD

      @John

      This isn’t just the Chair Force. The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel office instructions for how to conduct a Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony — which can be found at the official military site here — contains the same verbiage about the Bible.

      In other words, your issue is with the Secretary of Defense, not the Air Force.

      As to the rest of your comment, your invective is revealing.

    2. Richard

      @John:

      Well said and plainly true.

      There is no doubt that Dominionist Christians in the Military are exercising every possible method to convert non-Christians and upgrade existing Christians to a more obedient and militant M.O. To this end they are bastardizing various military customs by substituting religious blather in lieu of strict military requirement. In addition command centered and coercive Christian based proselytizing is on the rise.
      To me this differes little from the Islamic Jihad and the efforts of Muslim extremists to achieve the same ends in the civil sectors of various countries.

  6. Mike

    John,

    Your first idea had some valid points. Thousands of Americans of all faiths have spilled blood for our freedoms. I am one of those Christians some folks on here love to hate, yet I still respect and appreciate the efforts of others. Unfortunately, the last two sentences of your post make me think you are the only thing thats “unsat”. You went completely off the rails with your ranting about the Air Force. You show us how small minded you really are. In the meantime, the rest of us “half brained” AF folks will continue to keep the skies over you safe.

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