Wednesday, December 13, 2006

War Widow Wins Fight To Put Pentacle On Headstone

(AP) WASHINGTON The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan saw a Wiccan symbol placed on a memorial plaque for her husband Saturday, after fighting the federal government for more than a year over the emblem.

Roberta Stewart, widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, and Wiccan leaders said it was the first government-issued memorial plaque with a Wiccan pentacle — a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle. More than 50 friends and family dedicated the plaque at Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery, about 30 miles east of Reno.

They praised Gov. Kenny Guinn for his role in getting the Nevada Office of Veterans Services to issue the plaque in September. The agency cited its jurisdiction over maintenance of the state cemetery.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes more than 30 symbols, including more than a dozen variations of the Christian cross and the atomic whirl used by atheists, but not the pentacle.

VA officials have said they are rewriting rules for approving emblems, but the process requires a public comment period.

Last month, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the VA on behalf of Stewart and others for its refusal to include the Wiccan emblem.

"Our people are on the front line in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's not right they're not getting equal treatment," said the Rev. Selena Fox, one of the Wiccan organizers of the event.

About 1,800 active-duty service members identify themselves as Wiccans, according to 2005 Defense Department statistics. Wiccans worship the Earth and believe they must give to the community. Some consider themselves "white" or good witches, pagans or neo-pagans.

Stewart and four other soldiers died Sept. 25, 2005, when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

(© 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

The available VA "emblems of belief" include Unitarian, Humanist, Atheist, and a lot of others I've never heard of.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Show Them You Care!

You've hear it right? Maybe even said it "We support the troops, even if we disagree with the war."

Thanksgiving comes next week with Yule, Hanukkah, and Christmas right around the corner.

When I think about our Service Members so far away from home and family it makes me want to do something for them.

I have decided to adopt a service member from eCarePackage. If I can send one of them a CD or book, or something else to make their lives a little better, let them know there is someone back here that they do not know but who loves, prays, and cares for them all the same.

Really it is the least I can do. This is a brand new web site, and it looks like there is not a ton of people signed up yet... Hopefully that will change soon.

Here is some info from the eCarePackage website

eCarePackage was established as a program of the nonprofit organization, Operation Homefront, in response to requests from service members, military families, and our outstanding and loyal donors.

Due to heightened security, Operation Homefront staff came up with this program as a way to allow patriotic citizens to continue to support our service members and their families without violating their safety and security.

For security purposes, the contact information of service members and families who sign up are never released to anyone, including donors who wish to adopt them. Instead, Operation Homefront ships the packages directly and permits communication only by email. We trust our donors will understand.

All items available in the eCarePackage store are listed based on a minimum requested donation amount to cover administering the program and shipping of the package.

Because many of these items are donated, our staff may substitute like items of different brands and package sizes in some cases on your orders.

Any funds remaining after covering costs will be used by Operation Homefront to help military families in need.

We appreciate your generosity and thank you for your support!

You can also adopt a military family and choose between with or without children. I hope to choose some husband or wife without children, they deserve our support too.

Until Then, and Always
~ Jamie

If you are a same-sex partner of a deployed military member and need someone to speak to, or would just like something small but heartfelt for the holidays... and you are comfortable sharing your shipping address, please email me.

In case you missed it..

Friday, November 10, 2006

Honoring our UU Veterans

Honoring our Unitarian Universalist Veterans
By F. Vernon Chandler

Veterans Day, originally established as Armistice Day in 1926, is the official holiday when the United States honors our men and women who are veterans. The holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all US veterans.

Recognizing and honoring the military service of members in our Unitarian Universalist congregations are not high priorities for many of our churches and fellowships. But there are literally hundreds of Unitarian Universalists in our nation's armed forces today, and chances are that someone sitting near you on Sunday morning was once in uniform.

I suspect that many Unitarian Universalist veterans feel some awkwardness in sharing this distinction with other UUs on Veterans Day. Given the number of veterans who are members of our religious faith, I can't help wishing our Veterans Day observances were different.

Our veterans' military experiences are varied. Some enjoyed peacetime service. Others were touched by the horrors of combat. A few continue to carry physical and emotional scars from their wartime service. For some veterans, it was their military experience that initiated the religious search that eventually brought them to Unitarian Universalism. I know a few current and former military personnel who actually discovered Unitarian Universalism while in uniform. After all, we have UU chaplains in all branches of military service and a few of our larger military installations have UU congregations that meet in military chapels.

Political opinions vary among those in uniform as it does among civilians. One big difference for our men and women in uniform is that they do not have the same freedom to express their opinions publicly as do other citizens. The tempo of military deployments today places a great strain on our military personnel and their families. I have friends and colleagues who are on their second one year deployment in less than 4 years.

On this Veterans Day weekend, I encourage Unitarian Universalists to honor the veterans and military personnel in their congregations. Regardless of your political views regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our members of the armed forces do not start wars nor do they dictate foreign policy.

Our Unitarian Universalist military personnel need your support... and your love.

Expressing that support could be as simple as lighting a candle for your veterans on Sunday morning. Or you might consider offering time in your worship service for individual veterans to stand and share a special memory or lesson in life that was gained from military service. Hearing what our Unitarian Universalist veterans have to say and share just might be more powerful than any sermon preached from your congregation's pulpit!

This year, when you see Veterans Day flags flying in your towns, no matter what your feelings are about this or any war, my fondest hope is that you will remember our UU veterans and UU military personnel. Remember them and reach out to them in love, extending the olive branch of acceptance and respect that our UU faith calls us to embrace each day.

The Rev. Dr. F. Vernon Chandler is a Unitarian Universalist minister and has served for over 32 years as a UU military chaplain. His overseas active duty assignments include tours of duty in Bosnia, Germany, Hungary, Korea, and Kosovo. He holds the rank of Colonel in the US Army Reserve. Vernon and his wife Nataliya reside in Eberstadt, Germany.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Another new Blogger...

Wow, interest really seems to be picking up!

I would like to welcome our newest Blogger, Frank Coon...

Here is his information

I'm Frank Coon and I am a twenty-year Navy Lieutenant (LDO) stationed at the Naval Reactors Representative's Office in Bremerton, WA. My family and I are active members of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church in Bainbridge Island, WA. I would love to join this blog.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Welcome to another new blogger

I would like to welcome anohter new Blogger, Yoed Cameron Santos. Here was the information she sent us, and we are happy to have her involved.

My name is Yoed Cameron Santos; I am currently a USCG reservist (though I have 9 years of AD service in the Air Force and Coast Guard). I just PCSd to the Bedford, MA and am attending Follen Community Church and First Parish UU in Lexington, MA. I am new to UUism but am absorbing all that I can like a sponge takes in water! I can’t wait to get active and do what I can to help fellow UUs in the military community.
Live life empirically!
Mrs. Yoed Cameron Santos
Hanscom AFB, MA

Monday, October 30, 2006

Welcome Captain Beall!

I would like to welcome Captain Thomas Beall as our newest Blogger...

Here is the information he sent to us!

Name: Captain Thomas R. Beall, USN
I am a member of Channing Memorial Church in Newport, RI (in fact I am the Congregation President this year). I am currently on the faculty of the U. S. Naval War College in Newport. I have been in the Navy 23 1/2 years, having served at sea in the Pacific and Middle East. I was Captain of USS RENTZ (FFG 46) and most recently the Commander of the Navy Element of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

We look forward to your sharing with us! This Blog is for us, so post as you see fit.

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle

Sunday, October 29, 2006

First Military President?

Due to the resignation of our President, I have become the Acting President of my congregation. I wonder if there are any other active duty UU board presidents, or if there ever have been before? Is this worthy of attention from other UU's - say an article in the UU World?

Along those lines, Rob Keithan of the UUA Washington Advocacy Office has asked me to write a brief reflection on Veterans' Day for their website. Maybe it will actually be used this time! He might be interested in input from others - give him a shout here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Survey on UU Attitudes to Military and Police issues

I would like to ask my fellow Military Affiliated UU's to please pass this email along within your UU contacts and congregations. Rev. Presley and I have been in contact over the summer on this, and I have already participated. I would ask you to take some time and do the same. The information collected will not only be helpful to her in her doctoral work, but also could be very valuable to us in understanding our own place in Unitarian Universalism as Military affiliated UU's.

Here is Rev. Presley's email.

Dear Friends,

I am working toward my Doctor of Ministry degree at
Meadville/Lombard Theological School, and I’d like your help. As part of my
final project, I am attempting to understand UU attitudes toward military and
police chaplaincy, as well as toward the military and police in general. Toward
that end, I have created an on-line survey that I would both love you to
complete, and then to forward the link on to others in your congregation(s). I
want to get broad participation, so feel free to forward this email to other UUs
you know. And please, personally answer the survey only once—I want this to be
as accurate as possible.

The link for the survey is: If you do
not immediately get sent to the survey, you may need to copy the address and
paste it into your Internet browser.

Thanks so much, and please
feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Doctor of Ministry Candidate
Meadville/Lombard Theological

Friday, September 29, 2006

Welcome new blogger!

I would like to welcome our newest Blogger, Scott Wendorf. Scott is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, having served as a Lieutenant and an Intelligence officer.

Welcome to the Blog, Scott! I hope you will tell us a little more about yourself, and begin sharing your thoughts about the Military and Unitarian Universalism.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Muslim Prayer Center in Quantico

While reading the base paper recently, I saw that the regular "Chaplain's Corner" was about fasting as a form of worship, written by a Muslim chaplain. I did a little research on the base website, and learned that we have a Muslim prayer center. Here's what the paper had to say about its opening:

The prayer center is the first of its kind to be established aboard a Marine Corps base. The center serves to express the Marine Corps’ recognition of diversity among service members and the commitment to provide continued support to all Marines regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

The ceremony for the center, located in building 3043 on Catlin Avenue, attracted local as well as international interest, to include media from foreign agencies like Al Jazeera and the Egyptian Press Agency.

Special guest speakers were Rear Adm. Louis Iasiello, the Chief of Navy Chaplains; Gen. Michael Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps; and Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

The ceremony began with a recitation from the Qur’an by Navy Lt. Abuhena Saifulislam, Quantico’s Muslim chaplain, first in Arabic and then translated into English. Navy Capt. David Kloak, deputy chaplain of the Marine Corps, gave the invocation which was followed by the colors presentation and playing of the national anthem.

After an introduction from Brig. Gen. Thomas Conant, director of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command Capabilities Development Directorate, the guest speakers were each given a chance to talk about the prayer center.

“Prayer is an icon of religious respect,” Iasiello said. “Today, at Quantico, religious respect takes the form of a center.”

When it was England’s turn to speak, he told the audience that Muslim Americans have been serving in the armed forced since World War I. He then pointed out several Muslim veterans still alive today and present at the ceremony representing World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and other operations.

“People come to America for freedom and liberty,” England said. “And religion is just one of those freedoms.”

After the speakers’ remarks, Hagee and England unveiled the dedication plaque on the building. The plaque has Arabic writing which is translated below as, “In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,” a statement from the Qur’an.

The center was created to provide Muslim military personnel, family members and international military officers with a suitable place to conduct religious services.

According to Quantico’s plans, this interim facility will serve as the prayer center until an extension is built on the Marine Memorial Chapel. The new extension will be named the Religious Activities and Family Support Center and will contain a Muslim prayer room.

I haven't seen any evidence of evangelical activity around here, other than my conversations with a former co-worker.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Action Alert from MRFF

Hello all,

From time to time, I feel that a piece of information comes to my attention that we should pass along to many UU's who are associated with the military... and this notice from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation seemed to me to be one of those items.

And so, I present it for your perusal...

Help Protect the Constitutional Rights of Military Personnel
The Defense Authorization Act is stalled in Congress over a provision that
states "chaplains in each of the military services would have the prerogative to
pray according to the dictates of their own conscience."

This means that chaplains would be allowed to pray in Jesus' name at mandatory military formations, directly violating the United States Constitution and gravely
compromising the rights of military personnel.

Mikey Weinstein, the Military
Religious Freedom Foundation's (MRFF) president and founder, has already sent a
letter to key congressional officials asking for their support. Now we need your

Write or Call Your Elected Officials
Send a letter or make a quick
phone call to your elected officials. Let them know that you believe this
provision would be detrimental to the men and women serving in our armed forces.

Here are some key ideas to touch on:
United States military is the preeminent
defender of our Constitutional rights and at this very moment is fighting a
global war on terror to preserve those Constitutional liberties that make
America so unique;
Military personnel deserve to know their government
officials are working to prevent fundamentalist values from infiltrating our
nation's armed forces;
The passage of this provision would undermine our
Constitution and dissolve the rights of the brave people who serve in our
nation's armed forces;
Passing this provision would further the erosion of
tolerance and respect at our nation's military academies and military
installations throughout the world;
This provision should not be about
political parties - it should about what is best for the men and women who serve
our country.

Contact Your Representative
Contact Your Senator

Letter to Key Congressional Officials

Dear Senator,

As you move forward
in the critical debate over whether or not to include language in the Defense
Authorization Act that would allow sectarian prayers at nondenominational and
mandatory military events, I urge you to keep in mind both the precious rights
of the military personnel that are at stake and the Constitutional guarantees of
the separation of church and state that you are required to uphold.
United States military is the preeminent defender of our Constitutional rights
and at this very moment is fighting a global war on terror to preserve those
Constitutional liberties that make America so unique.
If we lose sight of
these treasured freedoms, and allow fundamentalist values to infiltrate our
nation’s armed forces, how can we in good conscience send our men and women into
the line of fire to fight against religious fundamentalists throughout the
There is a pandemic of intolerance spreading throughout our military,
creating a deep and dangerous divide between military personnel. In the past
several years, there have been countless reports of egregious Constitutional
violations within the various branches of our armed forces – chaplains invoking
Jesus’ name at mandatory formations, the use of anti-Semitic and other
inflammatory slurs, the misuse of official email accounts by military leadership
to promote religious events and illegal proselytizing and evangelizing.
family has a long and proud history of service in our nation’s armed forces – I
am a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and the son of a Naval
Academy graduate. My sons and daughter-in- law have matriculated at the Air
Force Academy. I have seen the climate of tolerance and respect at the USAFA
deteriorate before my eyes – my own sons have been the targets of anti-Semitic
rhetoric and coercive evangelizing. My daughter-in-law, a practicing
non-evangelical Christian, has also been made to feel as though her faith is not
enough. She has received blatantly illegal emails, via official military
communication channels, promoting fundamentalist Christian theology and has
experienced illegal proselytizing from her superiors and peers.
I am gravely
concerned that the passage of this provision would undermine our Constitution
and further erode the already tenuous situation at our nation’s military
academies and at the 702 U.S. military installations located in 132 countries
throughout the world.
This debate should not be an issue of who is on the
left or right of the political spectrum; rather, it should be an issue of what
is best for our noble and honorable armed forces. Please make the right decision
for our country by helping to ensure this detrimental provision does not pass in
the Defense Authorization Act.


Mikey Weinstein

President and Founder,
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Monday, August 21, 2006

Welcome to a New UUMil Blogger!

Hello All!

I want to extend a warm welcome to our newest UU Mil blogger, Chaplain Rebekah Montgomery. As someone who aspires to UU Military Chaplaincy, I am excited to have her here with us, all the way from Afganistan!

Here is a little info about herself that she sent me...

Name: Rev. Rebekah A. Montgomery, nee Savage Military affiliation: US Army
Congregation: Deployed!

I am a born and raised UU from River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda, MD. I graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1999 and was ordained a UU minister is 2002. I came into the military in 2003. Now I am deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan - and have been here for 15 months, only a few more to go. I am aware of only one, maybe two, other UU chaplains in the Army... but it remains the best calling in the world. I am honored to serve soldiers.

Perhaps she will introduce herself soon, although we understand that, being deployed in Afganistan, her time is best spent with her soldiers. And for that, I for one thank her.

Yours in Faith,


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Learning From The Military

I have in hand Dr. Shannon E. French's paper "The Warriors Code," brought to public attention by AP reporter Robert Tanner's story "US troops taught 'warrior ethics' to fight in Iraq" and run in newspapers all over the nation. Professor French of the Naval Academy discusses ethics and the nature of armed force. These are the kinds of discussions we UU's pride ourselves on relishing. "The Warrior's Code" is online at along with other stimulating articles.

We can also learn from the best examples of how military families take care of one another. As a blog group, we're well on the way to establishing a network: there is the list of churches. The next step is to find contact people in the churches, fellowships, and societies. Let's find out what people need that we can give.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Checking in!

Well, this is not really a checking in, although I have been a little absent as of late, due to serving as a student hospital Chaplain for the summer in Knoxville, TN.

I have introduced myself here before, as I have been a contributor for awhile now, but let me do so again. My name is David Pyle, and I am a UU Seminary Student at the Meadville Lombard Theological School. I am also a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served with the 7th Special Forces Group out of Ft. Bragg, and the U.S. National Intelligence Cell in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Plans and calls can change, but it is now my intention, upon completion of seminary and the UU fellowship process, to return to the U.S. Army as a Chaplain.

I believe there is a great need in our faith to move towards a more organized outreach and support system for those of us of liberal faith who are also connected with military organizations, be it as a service member, as a spouse or family member, as a veteran, or as a defense employee. But there is also a need, almost as great, to begin the process of educating our faith tradition about what it means to be a UU in the military. I love our liberal faith movement, and even the association of congregations that has grown to support it, but we have not always related well to the military. We are also in need of a liberal social activist organization that addresses problems within our military from the perspective of those who know it most intimately... servicemembers, spouses, and veterans.

How this can happen, I don't know. Perhaps it will be a UU Independent Affiliate Organization dedicated to these goals. Perhaps it will be an office of the UUA. Perhaps there is a church out there who would like to sponsor this kind of work, or an association of churches who are located near military bases. There are many different options and probably more ideas out there.

But we are losing UU's of faith because we do not know how to accept and support them in their positions in the military. And how can we expect the military to come any closer to our UU principles and ideals if we are not there?

Greg, thank you for your service, both as a UU and as a Marine. You have been an inspiration and I hope you will always consider me a friend.

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle

Checking Out

As of today, David Pyle is the new administrator for the UUMilBlog. My focus and energy are moving in other directions, and David has graciously agreed to take over with the blog. I will continue to be a contributor.

Thanks to everyone who's shown interest in the blog, and all of the members for their posts. Keep up the good work, and I'll see you around!

Greg Rouillard
A Black Sheep in Wolves Clothing

Friday, June 30, 2006

The War Tapes

UUMil Blogger and retired MCPOCG Vince writes to UUA President Bill Sinkford:

...the reason for my email is to bring your attention to a very interesting documentary that has just been released about our U.S. troops serving in Iraq. The documentary film, "The War Tapes" is the first film about the war in Iraq filmed by the soldiers themselves. It recently won Best International Documentary at the Tribes Film Festival. The soldiers who filmed the documentary are from a New Hampshire Army National Guard unit that was deployed to Iraq in 2004.

The film has received rave reviews from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Mark Bowden, author of 'Black Hawk Down.' I had seen the movie last Thursday when it was screened here in Washington, DC. I think this is a very important and powerful movie that you and as many of your colleagues that are available should see, as it depicts a complete unabashed realistic view of what our troops are dealing with in Iraq. An interesting note here, it doesn't matter what side of the issue on the war you're on - it's presented completely nonpartisaned, with the views, thoughts and opinions from the soldiers themselves who are serving. It also tells a story of how the war has a traumatic and emotional effect on the soldiers, their families and how they deal with their experiences when they return.

I personally invite you to please see this movie which is showing in Boston at the Kendall Square Cinema. On this Friday night (6/30), which is opening night in Boston -Soldier/Camerman Mike Moriarty and his wife Randy, along with Soldier/Camerman Steve Pink and his girlfriend Lindsay Coletti who were all featured in the documentary will be available for an open discussion after the 7pm showing. The 'War Tapes' website provides some additional information on where the discussion will be held.

Check out the movie's website for more information.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Fallen Hero

You may, or may not have heard. On Thursday June 8th a childhood friend of mine was killed in Iraq. Daniel Crabtree was a year younger, and in a grade below mine, however before High School we where in scouts together. I still cannot reconcile the 31 year old hero I see in the news to the 14 year old smiling, up-to-something boy I knew.

My prayers continue to go out to the Crabtree Family, most especially his wife and young daughter.

Until Then, and Always

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Unitarian Universalists in the Military

Unitarian Universalists in the Military
I keep thinking or three things: curriculum, PTSD, and candles. The easiest one tonight; that is candles. Some UU societies light them and in others people would duck under benches at the thought. For those that do light candles in honor or remembrance of, are there any candle makers among us? Would we like to offer a ceremonial model?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Military UU Congregation

Bonnie writes us about the Neighborhood UU Church of Pasadena, CA, spiritual home to a California National Guard private, a recent West Point graduate, "and maybe other active duty and of course lots of vets of various wars...."

Thanks, Bonnie.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

New Blogger from Unitarian Country

Wow, another new blogger. Dwight Gertz is a retired Captain in the Navy Reserve (that's equivalent to an Army or Marine Colonel, for those not in the Naval Service). Dwight is a member of the First Parish in Lincoln, Mass, where he is "currently a deacon—we use old time New England titles."

Welcome, Dwight, we look forward to seeing your posts.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Welcome to New Blogger

Welcome to Randy in Ramstein, our new blogger from Germany. We look forward to seeing his posts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another Memorial Day Homily

I wanted to jump on the band wagon here and link to the Homily I gave this past Sunday. It was received really well.

Some of you already know the story, if you scroll down you can read it in detail, but in one of those weird ways of the universe, it has actually allowed me to connect with people on a level I did not have before.

You can read the sermon here

Until Then, and Always

Monday, May 29, 2006

Chaplain Kane Essay at UU World Online

UU World Editor Chris Walton writes:

Dear friends at Unitarian Universalists in the Military,

UU Navy chaplain Cynthia Kane has written a brief essay for Memorial Day for A link to your group blog is one of the essay's "Related Resources," so I hope at least a few readers will connect with your community after reading Cynthia's essay.

Warm regards and many thanks for all you do,
Chris Walton

Thanks, Chris, for your awareness of our forum and our work.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Day Sermon

Today, I had the honor of presenting the sermon during a moving Memorial Day ceremony at the Emerson Unitarian Church in Houston.

It was a very moving service, involving a reading of several poems by soldiers, the playing of "Silver Taps" after a silent meditation, and many other elements.

I was honored to be asked to present the sermon, and as always I have placed it online.

It is entitled "Silent Tears: The Faith of a Solider".

I was proud of Emerson Unitarian Church, and proud to be a part of a service presented and lead by UU Veterans. I was also proud of how well the sermon was received by the congregation.

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Amateur Radio Help

Is everyone aware that there are ham radio operators specially licensed to pass messages between US armed services personnel, their families, and friends? The information is available online and there are separate systems for Army, Air Force, and Navy-Marines. One helpful starting point is: Message traffic through the MARS networks isn't as swift as email or telephone but the operators are dedicated volunteers. As with other activities at which amateur radio operators work, there is no charge for the service.

Marilyn, KC0PMD

Monday, May 22, 2006

Welcome to new Blogger

Welcome to Marilyn from Minnesota. We look forward to seeing your posts.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

UU Military Congregation in Maryland

Linda from the UU Fellowship of Southern Maryland writes:

I am writing you from the UU Fellowship of Southern Maryland, a little over an hour south of DC and adjacent to the Patuxent Naval Air Station in Lexington Park, MD. Our congregation has many members who are retired from various branches of the military as well as many contractors that support the work of the base here. On May 28, we will be conducting a lay-led sharing service with the title "Honoring Those Who Protect Our Freedom" and is described in our newsletter as follows:

"On this Memorial Day weekend, it seems appropriate to ask how we can honor members of the Armed Forces who put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms and our way of life, while at the same time honoring our UU values to promote peace. And what about the many civilians who work for the Armed Forces as employees and contractors? This morning's sharing service will be an opportunity to explore these important - and sometimes difficult questions."

I have listened to the tape from last year's GA on "Unitarian Universalists in the Military" and that's how I got your address and blog address. I have wonderful material from that tape, but would also appreciate any readings that you recommend. When reading your blog, I got the feeling that you were reaching out to congregations to help them understand this issue better and to talk about being more welcoming and inclusive. I will plan to use Gini Courter and Bill Sinkford's comments.

Our congregation is sensitive to the issues I heard on the tape. About 18 months ago, we had a service for Peace Day when our retired military members talked about their time in the service and the "peace missions" and work they did with communities that they were stationed at. It was an eye-opening event for our hard line peace folks, something that the quieter military folks were so relieved to
experience. It has meant all the world to our military folks to no longer hide who they are and to be acknowledged as true UUs too.

I have not served in the military myself, but have a younger brother who is an active member, an officer, in the Navy, stationed in Norfolk.

I am glad that we are learning to me more inclusive - it's about time!

Thanks for the work you are doing and if you can provide any assistance for our worship service on the 28th, I would appreciate it.

Linda, thanks for YOUR work. If anybody can help her out with readings for her service on Memorial Day weekend, please e-mail us and we'll pass it along.

UU Military Congregation in Minnesota

Thanks to Marilyn from the Nora UU Church in Hanska, MN for telling us about her congregation, which has at least one military member, an Army guardsman now on his second deployment to Iraq.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Of Course, There is Still Work to Do

FUUSE had this article posted on their site today.. of course there is no mention of Youth and Young Adults who may actually want to join the military.

A tolerant community, we all hope, would be one that is tolerant of all people not just those with which we agree. Of course there are lines we cannot accept being crossed, and for some people the military is over that line.

Can I just say to any Youth or Young Adults who are considering the military and come across this entry that I would honor and respect your choice, and continue to welcome you into the UU faith with open arms.

Until Then, and Always

Chipping Away

As Gregs last post pointed out, people are beginning to listen.

I wanted to share something that happened in my home congregation. The Monday night SGM (small group ministry) group decided that they wanted to do a project together. They chose to support an organization known as "Books for Soldiers".

They enrolled the entire church and where able to gather together over 200 lbs of books, all paperbacks, and the money to have them shipped over seas.

Since my point of view of supporting the military is so well known I kind of stayed out of it unless people would think I was running the program.

I am so proud of my congregation, so proud of the anti-war people who came to me and said "What would you have liked to read while you where away from home?"

The really amazing thing though is how many people right now are talking about how they can support and show our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines love and respect while continuing to be against the war.

This week.. is a good week for military UUs. I was also asked to share the story about the UU World article during our memorial days service.

Greg is right.. people are listening.. so please keep speaking
Until Then, and Always

Monday, April 17, 2006

Somebody's Listening, But Keep Talking!

Our very own Navy UU Chaplain Cynthia Kane recently e-mailed the higher echelons of the UUA (President Bill Sinkford and Moderator Gini Courter) about our recent challenges, as well as some of hers. In part, she wrote:
Transitioning back [from deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba] has been quite a challenge, mostly from fellow UUs who've taken issue with the fact that I was there & also that I am not joining the UUSC "Stop the Torture" campaign. I was the guest speaker at the Pacific Northwest District annual meeting, which proved to be quite controversial...and regrettably my message was overshadowed by presence in uniform & in GTMO... Another example of our continued need to educate our comrades in faith and help them make our congregations more welcoming.
Sound familiar? Anyway, she got this reply from Gini Courter...
I've been thinking on this for a long time. I'm frustrated, too. I keep remembering when the images of two uniformed military folks (I think one was you!) were shown on the "big screen" during the GA closing last year. The applause was loud and sustained. I believe that the "center" of Unitarian Universalism is proud and supportive of our UU members of the military, but they don't get (create?) the same air time that the anti-military (usually presented as pro-peace or anti-war) folks get. I'll continue to be mindful and be more vocal.
... and this from Bill Sinkford:
This breaks my heart. I know how how hard it is to feel that you are not welcome in the religious place that you know is your home. You are living in that space which people of color know so well.

I promise to continue to raise this issue with our congregations as I have been doing in my preaching. It is a central spiritual issue for our religious community. Whether it be people in the military, Republicans, working class folks...anyone who doesn't fit the predominant demographic...we need to take to heart the words of the hymn, "Come, come, whoever you are." Its not just a nice tune.
Rev Sinkford's comment about inclusion really hits the nail on the head. It mirrors what I have noticed about the "selective acceptance" among UUs of those who are "not like us" - especially political conservatives and military members.

His reference to "that space which people of color know so well" is particularly compelling. It certainly puts things in a different perspective if you think about how most UUs (warning: huge generalization coming) would rather die than express any kind of anti-minority sentiment. But how many people of color are in our pews on Sunday morning? How many military?

Maybe we UUs need to learn to see ALL colors as "us," including khaki and camouflage.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Hello all!

Yesterday, I was asked by a friend to comment on a thread in another forum regarding the current status of former Air Force Chaplain Melinda Morton, and the status of the U.S. Chaplaincy Corps, from the perspective of a religious liberal ministerial aspirant who hopes to serve as a chaplain.

As I was researching for my commentary, I came across two articles I would like to share with you all. They are a bit long, but I guarantee they are well worth the read.

If you would like to see some commentary on the Chaplain Melinda Morton case, I have a thread on my website that has some news articles and commentary.

Now, the two articles that I would like for you to read are here... they are a two part series...

Article 1

Article 2

They were written by Cara DeGette, and they detail the mission of a former Air Force officer named Mikey Weinstein. Part of that mission is to form an organization known as the Military Religious Freedom Founation.

I have sent a letter to Mikey Weinstein, to let him know about my past and my call to UU Military Chaplaincy, and to ask how I can form a more concrete relationship with the Foundation and how I can help. But that is a personal choice for me, in my path to ministry.

I would ask my fellow Military UU's, especially those who are veterans or are currently serving, to look over these links, and begin seeing how we can aid in their mission and cause.

Yours in Faith,

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Anyone want to go to Maryland?

Chalice Chick joins the fray by telling us the following story:
As I recently wrote about on my blog the YRUU group at my church got a rather one-sided presentation on the military from a lady who came to speak out against Army Recruiting in the schools. I was wondering if any of y'all would be willing to come give them another perspective on military service and particularly on how what you have done aligns with your UU values.

The head youth person hasn't said yes, but it would probably be toward the end of June. I will pay airfare from whereever you are to Washington DC and you can stay in our guest room. (The house is under renovation and sort of messy, but the bed is comfy!)

Anyone interested can email me back at
Her blog post is an interesting read - seems to fit into last week's conversation about UU's in the military. Hopefully some military UU will be willing to visit her congregation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Welcome to New Blogger!

Welcome aboard to Bridget Wilson, who is a major Judge Advocate in the CA State Military Reserve, and a veteran of USAR.

Bridget is also a member of Dignity - a group of LGBT Catholics - who celebrate Mass at First UU in San Diego, so she feels like an honorary UU. She also writes,
I am an attorney who in addition to my civil practice handles military law matters. I am always in the hunt for a Unitarian minister or lay minister who would be willing to do military jail visits. There are two major military confinement facilities in the area. I have some clients who could greatly benefit from UU contact. Some of those are gay, and I periodically hear from Wiccans or other“pagans”. It is difficult to get military authorities to acknowledge clergy from gay or pagan groups, but UU, that is something officially recognized by the armed forces. [Sigh, I once had a brig commander tell me he had no intention of allowing “Satanism’ in his brig. You get the drift.] I am happy to exchange info.
Thanks for joining us, Bridget, and we look forward to seeing your posts!

Church of the Larger Fellowship

Yesterday Erika Nonken, of the UUA Public Affairs Office, wrote:

I couldn’t help but notice that the Church of the Larger Fellowship (file:// wasn't included in your list of UU congregations with military members. It has the largest percentage of military members of any congregation, so far as we know, and almost certainly serves the largest number of active UU military service people. If you haven't yet advertised your forum through the Church of the Larger Fellowship, I would encourage you to do so.

Thanks, Erika, for the great suggestion.

Monday, March 27, 2006

UU World Article Ignores Military UUs (Updated 3/29)

How's that for an inflammatory title? I just couldn't resist. :-)

A couple of weeks ago UUMilBlogger Jamie Goodwin let us know about an upcoming UU World article about the third anniversary of the Iraq war. I dutifully contacted the author, and he interviewed me by phone for about 30 minutes. I told him my opinion about how military UUs are viewed by the "average" UU - either with ignorance or antipathy - and some of my experiences. I also told him how in every case when I've encountered someone with a negative attitude about military members, once that person got to know me as an individual, the reaction was always the same: "wow, I had no idea there were people like you in the military!" Sound familiar to anyone else?

The author seemed very interested in what I had to say, so I was really looking forward to an article that would acknowledge and honor military UUs. The end result, however, was a compilation of UU war protests and other events marking the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, with one brief mention of military UUs. I was pretty disappointed.

I don't blame the author - doubtless there are valid reasons why no UU military voices were included in the article. ** But as I told him in an e-mail this morning,

... I think that we UUs in general are actually pretty intolerant when it comes to people who aren't "like" us. This seems to include military members, Christians, political conservatives, and doubtless others. We talk the talk of inclusion and acceptance, but we don't always walk the walk. I wonder if this has influenced the editorial policy of UU World?

This e-mail was in response to his very gracious note to me. He offered his apologies for not being able to include my information in the article, and indicated that they (presumably UU World) will be revisiting the topic of UUs in the military. We can hope.

The upside of this whole episode is that it's reenergized me to continue working toward a military UUA affiliate, as David Pyle introduces here. David, sorry I've dropped out of the picture on this for so long.

We can't rely on others to do our work, so if you value being heard and raising the awareness of the "average" UU about the unique circumstances and challenges of military UUs, please join us.

** UPDATE 3/29 **

After my original post, I got another e-mail from the author, explaining that my one voice was not enough to "bend the story" in the direction of military UUs. So next time UU World solicits input from us, let's give them more voices!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Make Your Voices Heard!

Are you a Unitarian Universalist who is serving or has served in Iraq?

Do you feel that your voice has been muted by your congregation or religious home?

Would you like to contribute to an upcoming article in the UU World magazine?

Please email me at (or link through my profile) so I can put you in touch with someone to make it happen.

This is a unique opportunity for we UUs who are veterans or military members.. as always the more voices that can be heard the better.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fallen Guardsman's Wiccan faith unrecognized


FERNLEY -- Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart gave his life for his country when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan in September.
But those wishing to honor Stewart, who should have his name on the memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, 34 miles east of Reno, would have a difficult time doing so.

The space reserved for Stewart, right next to Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, his comrade from Sparks who also died in the attack as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, is vacant.
Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion -- and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward -- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's plaque is installed.

"It's completely blank," Roberta Stewart said, pointing to her husband's place on the memorial.
She said she had no idea the pentacle could not be used on her husband's memorial plaque until she had to deal with the agency after the death of her husband.

"It's discrimination," she said. "They are discriminating against our religion.

"I had no idea that they would decline our veterans this right that they go to fight for," she said. "What religion we are doesn't matter. It's like denying who my husband is."

Patrick Stewart's dog tags, which Roberta Stewart wears around her neck, carry the word Wiccan on them to identify his religious beliefs. But she said he was never told the Wiccan religion was not officially recognized during his 13 years of military service in different capacities.

"By they way, if you die for your country, your religion won't be recognized, that would be nice to know," Roberta Stewart said.

For full story, click here

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Gay & Lesbian Servicemembers for Equality

The Following message came to me through one of my friends, and thought I could help get the word out to GLBT Service Members, as an ally... David

Forwarded on behalf of Gay & Lesbian Servicemembers for Equality: GLSME
A Resource for those who Serve

I am proud to announce the re-launch of the Gay and LesbianServicemembers for Equality (GLSME) website. The GLSME website,, is a resource for active duty LGBT servicemembers, their partners, straight allies, and families. We offer a safe networkof support, a forum in which to discuss and share ideas, news andinformation on LGBT military issues, and people to contact ifindividuals have specific concerns or need assistance.

Of note is the GLSME Forum, where the LGBT military community canjoin a discussion about current issues, chat with others who are goingthrough similar experiences, and find some friends. Visitors can stayinformed on LGBT military community topics on our News and Statisticspage, where we provide current press releases and graphic representations on the effects of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

We are also featuring a Links and References page, highlighting otherorganizations and the resources they can offer to the LGBT military community. From legal advice to personal counseling, these organizations are here to help. Many these organizations' staffmembers were active duty servicemembers at one point, so they understand the challenges inherent in serving and the need for confidentiality.

On the GLSME blog you can follow projects like the Call to Duty Tour, a unique effort by young gay veterans to educate the public and more conservative audiences about Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and debate the merits of the policy through a seven weekcollege speaking tour at over 20 universities. Please inform your friends and coworkers about this site, and also forward it on to anyone in the LGBT military community that would benefit from it. Working together to make life better for active duty LGBT servicemembers is what we're all about.


Patrick English
President, Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers for Equality

Note: The GLSME is in no way politically affiliated nor does it lobby or advocate for repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law. Discussion on this matter, however, is highly encouraged. The GLSME fully supports any effort to make life better for LGBT servicemembers.This is also not a dating or personals site. Vulgarity, crude language, and sexual propositioning will not be tolerated.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

War vets ready for new battle: Politics

Full Story

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. — The lunchtime crowd is thinning at Portillo's Hot Dogs near O'Hare Airport when the candidate arrives. Leaning on a cane, she moves slowly on her $120,000 bionic legs with a stooped and halting stride. Tammy Duckworth lost both legs while serving in Iraq. After more than a year in rehab, she's campaigning for Congress.

By Tim Dillon, USA TODAY

"Hi! I'm Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq war veteran running for Congress. You might have heard of me?" she says, extending her mangled right arm to shake hands.

Indeed, many here in Chicago's western suburbs have already heard of the Illinois National Guard helicopter pilot who lost both legs and full use of her right arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her Blackhawk in a 2004 attack in Iraq.
Maj. Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth, 37, spent nearly a year at Washington's Walter Reed Army Hospital, and her rehabilitation has been chronicled in national media, including USA TODAY.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Military UUs in Germany

Thanks to Kay Meyer for telling us about the Kaiserslautern UU Fellowship on Ramstein AB, Germany, which she says "may be the only UU fellowship to meet on a military base!" She also tells us of two other stateside UU congregations with military members, First UU of San Antonio and First UU of Wichita.

Kay has also requested to join our rolls as a blogger, so we look forward to seeing her posts soon.