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Posts Tagged ‘national guard’

prayer-invite

Today, well over a hundred thousand military personnel are deployed overseas. Members of the US Armed Forces are on seven continents and in 170 countries. These warriors are away from their loved ones and families because threats do not take holidays.

Pray for the 28,000 service members in South Korea, the 13,000 in Afghanistan, the 5,000 in Iraq and the 20,000 National Guard personnel who are activated alongside. They stand guard this weekend so that others can have security and know peace.

May God richly bless our troops, strengthen their families, and sustain their efforts across the globe.

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chaplain crest

The Army Chaplain Corps was born on July 29, 1775.  The start of the Chaplain Corps came six short weeks after the Continental Congress established the Army. General George Washington formed the infantry as the first branch of the Army. Soon after this, he saw the need for ministers to care for Soldiers and go into battle directly with units during the American Revolution. General Washington’s concern for the care of his troops quickly brought creation of the second branch, the US Army Chaplain Corps.

The Continental Congress officially recognized chaplains in the national army with the rank of Captain.  Congress later passed the “Chaplaincy Act” on January 16, 1776, authorizing one chaplain for every two regiments. Pay was set at thirty-three dollars and thirty-three cents a month.  While the pay scale and uniform has certainly changed, the need for military ministry has not.

Since the start in 1775, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their Families. From military installations to deployed combat units and from service schools to military hospitals, Army Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants have performed their ministries in the most religiously diverse organization in the world.

Always present with their Soldiers in war and in peace, Army Chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements. Nearly 300 Army Chaplains have laid down their lives in battle. Seven have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Currently, over 2,900 Chaplains are serving the Total Army representing over 130 different religious organizations.

Pray for the men and women who bring God to Soldiers and Soldiers to God.  They are the servants who nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen. May their actions, words, deeds, and ministry efforts continue to live up to the Chaplain Corps motto, “Pro Deo et Patria,” which means, “For God and Country.”

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buffalo

Now is a great time for military members and families to start planning your 2013 vacation.  If you want to see the great outdoors, consider visiting a National Park, National Forest, or Fish and Wildlife area this summer for free.

The National Park Service is offering free park passes at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.  The park pass is available to US military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.  Members of the National Guard and US Reserves and their dependents are also eligible.

The park pass is good for a full twelve months across the country and is non-transferable.  It covers entrance to National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service sites that charge entrance fees. It also covers standard amenity fees at Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation sites. The pass admits the pass owner and accompanying passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle, at “per vehicle” fee areas; or the pass owner, and up to three additional adults, at sites that charge per person. Children of age 15 or under are admitted free.

Annual park passes must be obtained in person at a Federal recreation site.  They are available to service members and dependents by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).  The Pass does not cover expanded amenity fees such as camping, boat launching, parking, special tours, special permits, or ferries.

This is another great way for America to say “thank you” to its defenders.  It is also a great way for service members to get out, relax, and enjoy some of the benefits of freedom that they preserve so well.

Grab a park pass this year and enjoy it to the fullest in 2013.

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SAAM

April is sexual assault awareness month.  The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

I understand this is not an easy topic to address, but sexual assaults can no longer be considered a taboo subject.  Silence is not an option.  It will only make the issue worse in communities, desensitize people to bad actions, discourage reporting, and slow response times.  Everyone has a responsibility in stopping assaults.  We must make every effort to increase awareness and prevention no matter where we live.

Human resource bulletin boards can no longer be the only place where respect is addressed as a value.  Congregations must strive to establish a climate of respect and teach others how to practice the love of Christ.  Churches are ideally places where victims of sexual assault receive the care and support that they need.

It is critical that churches, staff members, leaders, and parents take a stand for what is right during the month of April.  Together we can highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights, and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.

Here are five suggestions on how we can incorporate SAAM activities in the community.

1.  Create a resource list.  What shelters, crisis centers, and medical clinics exist in your community?  What organizations are available to help assault victims?  Make sure that people know who to contact should an incident occur.  Church leaders may need this person or organization on speed dial.  Be sure to have a resource listed on your cell phone should someone need immediate help.

2.  Talk to your youth groups.  Tell these new and growing Christians why all people deserve respect and courtesy.  Jesus should not be to only voice to share the Golden Rule.  Kids need to hear solid reminders based on our faith.  The world is always ready to give an alternate view on dating, relationships, and much, much, more.  As church leaders, it is our duty to educate the next generation.  Teach your youth that everyone deserves an environment of mutual respect, dignity, and fair treatment.

3.  Demonstrate what “right” looks like.  You may need to stop an inappropriate joke from being told or challenge wrong comments.  Don’t wink at wrongs when they happen around you.  Silence is not consent, but Christians are called to shine the light of Jesus.  Help to draw a bright line between right and wrong no matter where you are.

4.  Organize a collection drive.  Collect necessary items for the local YMCA, YWCA, domestic violence shelter, crisis center, medical clinic, or hospital.  They frequently need clothing, toiletries, and supplies when assault victims seek emergency shelter or medical care.  Make an effort to highlight the needs in your congregation.  It also reminds families that crisis centers, clinics, and shelters exist in the community.  Families can also take comfort in knowing that resources will be available should they need future assistance.

5.  Host an open house.  An open house provides an opportunity for your congregation to provide valuable information with members and the people in your neighborhood.  Make brochures and educational information available.  Be sure to provide information about volunteer opportunities.  Invite the people and organizations on your new resource list to set up a booth or share how they provide a community service.  Publicize the open house in newspapers, on radio stations, and online.

Broken families and relationships are too common in our age.  Congregations can be the loving, caring, and healing communities that assault victims need during a time of crisis.  Churches can also step up and address the issue to prevent future incidents.  We can make a difference locally and help to create a community-wide response.  Take the time to highlight SAAM and shine the light of Christ where you are.

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Gambling is a problem in America.  But gambling addiction issues with veterans are twice as high.

The Veterans Administration funded a study to determine the prevalence of problems and pathological gambling addictions within the U.S. military.  The findings deserve our attention:

  • One in 10 veterans have a problem or pathological gambling addiction (2 percent pathological addictions and 8 percent problem addictions to gambling)
  • Unemployment plays a major role in whether the veteran had gambling addictions, and married veterans were more likely to have gambling addictions (not what psychologists and researchers expected to see)
  • Veterans have about twice the rate of problems/pathological gambling addictions compared to the general, non-military population
  • Both male and female veterans have almost identical problem and pathological gambling addiction rates (again, this is unusual – not what psychologists and researchers expected to see)
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety tend to have more gambling addiction problems
  • Younger veterans (20s) were more likely to be diagnosed as pathological gamblers (from previous data, most veterans with pathological gambling addictions are 35 and older, so this change in age for addiction was unexpected)

Veterans are immediately submitted to unhealthy methods of emotional escape when they return from combat.  There is a strong temptation to find unhealthy coping mechanisms because you are trying to develop a new normal at home or deal with combat stress reactions.  Many WWII veterans turned to alcohol, isolated themselves from family, and became workaholics when they returned from combat.  While this was a way to cope with problems, it was not the best way.

Gambling easily lends itself to a destructive path.  In short order, people quickly become compulsive gamblers, grow financially unstable, throw away friends and family, end marriages, abandon children, risk loosing a security clearance, jeopardize his/her military career, and even contemplate suicide.

Know the signs that point to a gambling addiction.  If you have a battle buddy or know a veteran who needs help, don’t wait.  Tell him/her what you see.  Encourage that person to get help.  State agencies and military posts offer free gambling addiction resources.  It is important that we act quickly when someone is at risk.  The loss of family and financial security may be enough for someone to consider suicide.  Your actions can help to save a life.

The National Council on Problem Gambling has a 24/7 confidential hotline:  1-800-522-4700.

Gamblers Anonymous offers a link with state hotlines at http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/hotlines

Military One Source offers free and confidential counseling for service members and military family members:  1-800-342-9647.

Focus on the Family offers faith-based counseling:  1-855-771-HELP (4357).

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Military Hands

Every marriage is precious in the sight of God.  It is an institution that began in Eden and continues with us as a gift from our Creator.  We often forget that marriage was meant to be a blessing for humanity.  When Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19, he pointed back to the creation story in Genesis. Perhaps the people needed a lesson on the original intent of matrimony.  Here Jesus reminds the crowd that the marriage of a man and woman was meant to be permanent, a bond of eternal love and devotion.  It is a lesson that we still need today.

No marriage is easy.  They all take work.  They all require sacrifice and commitment.  Military marriages require all the above plus an extra dose of patience, a heap of faithfulness, a double batch of kindness, and a strong shot of self-control.

This week served as a reminder that military marriages are especially difficult.  A recent investigation by the Associated Press showed that 30 percent of military commanders who were fired since 2005 lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses.  The list includes sexual harassment, adultery, and improper relationships.  These 78 commanders lost more than their rank.  They lost more than their position on a military post.  They lost their families.

We all have distractions in our marriage, but military couples truly have an extra burden.  They endure deployments, reuniting as a couple and a family once the deployment is finished, frequent separations for training missions, plus a litany of long days and late nights for regular work to get done.  It is tough to make a marriage like this succeed.

When I completed the chaplain officer basic course at Fort Jackson, drill instructors had the highest divorce rate on post.  Soldiers with this job had an 85% divorce rate.  That number shocked me back then and it still does today.  When you get past the initial surprise, the percentage made sense.  These drill sergeants arrive at work before 5 am, wake up the recruits, train hard all day, get home around 7 or 8 pm, and repeat this kind of schedule until graduation day.  Where is the time for your spouse?  When can you enjoy your family?  With schedules like this, who would be surprised with such a high divorce rate?

Don’t focus on the headlines.  Don’t focus on the gloom and doom.  Military marriages can and do work.  Part of the solution is making time for each other.  Stay current with your spouse.  Attorneys, doctors, social workers, and yes, even chaplains, are required to get a set number of continuing education hours each year.  This is encouraged to keep professionals current on the latest ways of helping those they serve.  We should show the same devotion to stay current in our marriages.  Don’t allow your relationship to wither on the vine.

Remember the gift that God has given you.  Your marriage is meant to be a blessing.  Also remember how God intends us to use the gift of marriage.  May Christ continue to strengthen your eternal bond of love and devotion.

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If you are looking for a cause that needs your prayer and support in 2013, look no further than the American Soldier.

Even though the surge ended this year, there are 68,000 service members who are still fighting in Afghanistan.  While the headlines talk about budget cuts, college football games, and Hollywood celebrities, their stories are often untold and forgotten.

These are America’s warriors who have left their homes and families to defend our nation.  These are the college students who cancelled classes when their nation called.  These are the fathers and mothers who missed a child’s first steps at home.  These are the veterans who have dodged bullets and bombs to stay alive.

Remember them in 2013.  Remember those who are fighting and sacrificing for you.  Remember military spouses.  Remember military families.  Remember them in your prayers and your efforts.    Remember the 68,000.

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Technology is trying to make the world better, but it often makes me feel like a dinosaur.

One of the latest marvels out there is a soft, flexible, wristband that you wear 24 hours a day.  It is combined with an app that tracks how you sleep, move, and eat.  The “UP” by Jawbone then helps you use that information to “be your best.”  The concept is extremely impressive, especially to me, a guy who frequently falters in his exercise routine and does not get enough sleep.

Gadgets are often used as mirrors to show people the good, the bad, and the ugly things we do each day.  The “UP” is ultimately trying to improve the physical health of people by showing them a better way and giving daily reminders on what to change.  After learning about this new item, I immediately began to wonder, what technology or gadget is out there to improve spiritual health?  What electrical device could show people a better way and give daily reminders on how to improve their spiritual lives?  What technology, gadget, or electronic doodad would strengthen my walk with Christ?

I am a dinosaur, so responses were slow.  I instead turned to some familiar items that currently help people strengthen their faith.  I distinctly remembered a Marine I met at Camp Lemonnier.  He downloaded the entire Bible to a handheld device and used that for our Wednesday night study of Matthew’s gospel.  During this year’s annual training exercise, Soldiers were constantly asking for a “Military BibleStick.”  It is a digital audio player that is pre-loaded with a dramatized recording of the entire New Testament.  I handed out more sticks than Bibles this summer.  There was another Soldier who wanted to read the entire Bible in a year, so I showed him a website where he could tailor a reading plan to his schedule.

As people begin to use their new gadgets and electronic Christmas gifts in the new year, utilize technology so that you can improve your spiritual health.  Download your favorite translation of the Bible, add a prayer appointment to your electronic calendar, use Pandora and listen to your favorite Christian artist, find a website and sign up for a daily or weekly devotion.  Don’t worry.  Dinosaurs can jump into the mix as well.  It does not matter if you keep a journal on a note pad or an iPad, the focus should be on building your spiritual muscles in 2013.  Use technology in a way that will strengthen your faith and devotion in Christ.

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We love this simple story because it speaks to our condition.

Christmas can be downright maddening.

First, everyone wants a piece of your time.  Once you flip your calendar to December there is an immediate flood of invitations to office parties, family gatherings, teas, banquets, and more.  The rush of the Christmas season only seems to get worse as the month continues.

Second, there is a flurry of activity.  Get out the decorations.  Put up the lights.  Set up the tree.  Start baking cookies and other delights before the guest arrive.  Don’t forget the multiple pageants and plays you need to attend also.  And remember to get your annual Christmas card out before everyone else.

Third, commercialism and consumerism run amuck.  Celebrate Christmas this year with a 60 inch flat screen tv for $200 this Saturday only.  Remember that it needs to be HD or the kids won’t like it.  We really go crazy buying presents.  Our focus easily turns to material items and excess instead of providing gifts of joy.  This year the local Christmas bureau didn’t have enough people to adopt needy families.  They ask for food, blankets, coats, towels, cleaning supplies and other necessities.  Perhaps those were the gifts that we should have given this year.

This cartoon is a timeless classic because it sums up our struggle with Christmas.  Charlie Brown and company encounter all the typical distractions that try to steal the real meaning of Christmas.  In his frustration, Charlie Brown asks, “isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  The turning point of the cartoon is when Linus takes center stage to share the story of Luke 2, Jesus being born in Bethlehem.

We too, get caught up in the parties, the activities, and the gift giving, but there is much more to the season.  Take time to hear the simple story.  Take time to focus on the importance of angels proclaiming his birth.  Take time to focus on what is truly important this Christmas season, our Savior, Christ the Lord.

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Brubeck

Dave Brubeck,  an American jazz legend, died today.  He was a respected pianist and composer who helped to define jazz.  Most articles and stories will focus on great pieces like, “Take Five,” “Koto Song,” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”  These songs will showcase his talent and skill, but folks should also remember Dave Brubeck the Army veteran.

After he graduated with a music degree in 1942, Brubeck enlisted in the Army.  Brubeck belonged to Patton’s Third Army and served in the European campaign.  One night he volunteered to play the piano at a Red Cross show.  This was a turning point in his military career.  Everyone was so impressed with his musical gift, that he was ordered to form a band.  This resulted in the creation of an Army first, a racially integrated band.

When Dave Brubeck spoke about his military service, he often mentioned how it evoked a spiritual awakening in him.  While many WWII era veterans would not share stories about the conflict they saw, Brubeck shared how it moved him to faith in God.  This was not a quick conclusion.  Brubeck became a Christian nearly 40 years after he witnessed combat.

I hope that Dave Brubeck is remembered for his God-given talent, his ability to see people for their skill instead of their skin color, his long quest as a spiritual seeker, and ultimately his faith in Jesus Christ.

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