Military

Brian Powers 5-22-2017

If we remember the morally injured on this Memorial Day, then perhaps we should also take a moment to critically examine the values that shape our collective ideas about goodness. 

the Web Editors 5-17-2017

Image via LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock.com

On May 17, Chelsea Manning, who was in a U.S. military prison for seven years on charges of whistleblowing, was released, reports ABC News. On Jan. 17, President Obama commuted the bulk of Manning’s 35-year prison sentence, enabling her to be released this year. Had President Obama not done so, Manning’s year of release would have remained 2045.

Image via RNS/Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

With ashes on their foreheads, sackcloth draped around their necks, and the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop, Christians leaders used the words “evil” and “immoral” to describe the federal budget cuts President Trump has proposed and many Republican lawmakers favor.

“It is a time for lamentation,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, explaining the symbols of grief the clergy brought to Capitol Hill on March 29.

Image via RNS/Israel Defense Forces

A year and a half after joining the Air Force, Ofir is halfway through her stint as a flight simulator instructor. Despite the rigors of military life she continues to keep kosher and observe the Sabbath.

Ofir is one of a growing number of Orthodox Jewish women who see no contradiction between serving in the military and maintaining a religious lifestyle – a trend that some Israeli rabbis hope to end.

West Point graduate stands in dress uniform with beard and turban

West Point graduate, Bronze Star Medal recipient and Sikh soldier Capt. Simratpal Singh in his military uniform with the approved religious accommodations of turban and beard. Photo courtesy of Becket Law

New Army regulations will allow soldiers to wear turbans, beards and hijabs under most circumstances, reflecting a change Sikhs have sought for years.

“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations,” wrote Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning in a Tuesday (Jan. 3) memo.

In March, the Army concluded that permitting beards for medical reasons but banning them for religious reasons is a discriminatory bar to service for Sikhs, who are forbidden by their faith to cut their hair and beards.

the Web Editors 6-30-2016

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced June 30 that the military would no longer disqualify transgender people from serving, effective immediately.

Back in July 2015, the Pentagon began a study to determine what it would take to lift the transgender ban.

Aysha Khan 2-12-2016
REUTERS / Mike Segar

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Mike Segar

Key evangelical figures have come out staunchly against a proposal to register women for a possible military draft, arguing it would weaken America’s military readiness and is at odds with traditional male-female relationships.

“A nation relying on female combatants is a nation that has been brought to its knees by political correctness,” Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission wrote on the group’s website.

Micah Bales 1-14-2016

For his final State of the Union address, President Obama delivered a characteristically eloquent and passionate speech. He issued a heartfelt call for unity and cooperation in a country whose political climate is just a few notches short of civil war. He asked us to consider how we might move forward as one nation, affirming our highest ideals rather than the hateful rhetoric of would-be despots.

Obama’s final State of the Union was in many ways a masterpiece of American political theater. He reminded us of the best of our tradition, calling us to live up to our history of welcoming the outsider and being a land of opportunity for all people. Despite the fact that this canonical history is to a great degree aspirational rather than actual, I was at many points uplifted to hear the president invite us to live into the more beautiful aspects of the American Dream.

Mary Bowerman 12-23-2015

Via Twitter.

U.S. service members are using the hashtag #IWillProtectYou to show support for a young Muslim girl who believed her family would be forced to flee following Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from the country.

Margaret Benefiel 11-20-2015

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The Nobel laureate and human rights advocate Aung San Suu Kyi entered the Myanmar Parliament this week, shortly after her party, the National League for Democracy, won the country's first free election in 25 years.

In those 25 years — since the 1990 election, which the NLD also won — Aung San Suu Kyi spent a total of 15 years without her freedom, having been placed under house arrest by the ruling military government which ignored the election results.

Since 1988, Ms. Suu Kyi has led nonviolent opposition to the military government. Last week’s landslide election results, which took the ruling generals by surprise, demonstrate once again that nonviolence is a force more powerful than violence.

the Web Editors 7-16-2015
Image via  Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Image via  /Shutterstock

Four Marines were killed and one police officer wounded at a Naval Reserve center in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, CNN reports.

The shooting occured at two sites — the first a military recruiting center — and lasted less than 30 minutes. According to CNN:

Investigators "have not determined whether it was an act of terrorism or whether it was a criminal act," Ed Reinhold, FBI special agent in charge, told reporters. "We are looking at every possible avenue, whether it was terrorism -- whether it was domestic, international -- or whether it was a simple, criminal act."

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian earlier told reporters that authorities were treating the shooting as an "act of domestic terrorism."

The suspected gunman is also dead. Read the full story here.

Chappell

Photo by Rick Reinhard 

“THE IDEA THAT peace is inevitable is as dangerous as the idea that war is inevitable,” says author and peace educator Paul K. Chappell. We’ve been discussing peace in practice for the better part of an hour, and he’s warming to the theme. He puts forward an unlikely premise—that violence is not intrinsic to human nature.

Paul Chappell isn’t what you would expect in a peace champion. A graduate of West Point and a member of the U.S. military for seven years, including as a captain in Iraq, he first honed his fighting skills on school playgrounds, getting expelled for fighting in grade school and suspended in high school. He was bullied as a child for his skin color (his father, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, was biracial—black and white—and his mother is Korean). Because of his father’s war trauma, Chappell describes his childhood as “unpredictably violent.”

It’s hard now to imagine this former troubled youth, both perpetrator and victim of violence, as the articulate Chappell thoughtfully winds his way through classical theory and national myth. But Chappell’s learned taste for creed over instinct is clear. The army provided the closest thing to family that a young Chappell had ever encountered, he tells me, but despite that deep affection—or perhaps because of it—he began paying attention to the lasting effects of war and trauma on his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.

Tech. Sgt. LaMarcus Molden recites the oath of enlistment at Al Asad Air Base in

Tech. Sgt. LaMarcus Molden recites the oath of enlistment at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. Photo courtesy DVIDSHUB/Flickr.

The American Humanist Association said Sept. 4 that an airman at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base who crossed out “so help me God” in the oath the Air Force requires servicemen and women to sign was told in August he must sign it as is or leave the Air Force.

The AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Air Force  on the airman’s behalf demanding he be allowed to sign a secular version of the oath. The U.S. Constitution allows freedom of religious beliefs and prohibits religious tests for holding public office or public trust, the letter states.

The airman’s name is being withheld by AHA.

“The Supreme Court has held on a number of occasions that it is unconstitutional to force anyone to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” said Monica Miller, an attorney for AHA and author of the letter. “Numerous federal courts have specifically held that forcing an atheist to swear to God violates the Free Exercise Clause as well as the Establishment Clause.”

As military recruiters gain a foothold in Christian schools, grassroots activists are sounding the alarm.

Kathy Kelly 5-27-2014
Hang Dinh/Shutterstock.com

Jeju Island, South Korea. Hang Dinh/Shutterstock.com

Jeju Island, South Korea — For the past two weeks, I’ve been in the Republic of Korea (ROK), as a guest of peace activists living in Gangjeong Village on ROK’s Jeju Island. Gangjeong is one of the ROK’s smallest villages, yet activists here, in their struggle against the construction of a massive naval base, have inspired people around the world.  

Since 2007, activists have risked arrests, imprisonment, heavy fines, and wildly excessive use of police force to resist the desecration caused as mega-corporations like Samsung and Daelim build a base to accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines for their missions throughout Asia. The base fits the regional needs of the U.S. for a maritime military outpost that would enable it to continue developing its Asia Pivot strategy, gradually building towards and in the process provoking superpower conflict with China.  

“We don’t need this base,” says Bishop Kang, a Catholic prelate who vigorously supports the opposition.

Ray Bradley during a meeting for Central North Carolina Atheists and Humanists. Photo by John Nichols, courtesy U.S. Army/RNS

More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military.

“I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” said Bradley, who is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and works on supporting readiness of the Army Reserve’s medical staff.

Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.

Paul Alexander 1-31-2014

Early Pentecostal denominations, including the Assemblies of God, opposed war and supported peacemaking. What happened to this peace legacy?

Military experts testify on Wednesday at a House Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Lawmakers peppered Pentagon officials on Wednesday about claims that military chaplains have faced discrimination for their beliefs, and time and again, chaplains and personnel officials said they were unaware of any bias.

Virginia Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, told the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel that she could not cite specific instances where chaplains had to preach a sermon or oversee a ceremony that conflicted with their beliefs.

“There’s absolutely nothing in policy or code that prohibits a chaplain from praying according to the dictates of their faith,” she said.

Moriel Rothman 1-05-2014

An Israeli-American resister on the spiritual links between violence and nonviolence.

Janelle Tupper 11-20-2013
Photo: Audrey Burmakin/Shutterstock

Congress is considering a new law on how sexual assault cases are handled in the military. Photo: Audrey Burmakin/Shutterstock

By official estimates, 26,000 people are sexually assaulted in the U.S. military each year. That comes out to 71 people every day. It’s an epidemic that’s been widely reported in the news.

As if that weren’t bad enough, most of the assaults go unreported – only 11 percent of assault victims ended up filing reports last year (3,374). Studies show that those who do not report the assault cite fears of retaliation and a concern that nothing will be done.

Leaders in Congress are trying to change that this week with the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Right now, if a woman is sexually assaulted in the military, her case is evaluated by a commanding officer. This officer decides whether to bring the case to trial. Once it has been tried, the same commanding officer is responsible for enforcing the consequences. That’s called “convening authority.”

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