Tag Archives: Military

WHAT TO SEE: The Battle on the Home Front

Indivisible
Sarah Drew, Justin Bruening, Jason George, Tia Mowry, and Madeline Carroll
Runtime: 110 min
Rated PG-13

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think ourselves invulnerable – to stress, pain, doubt, or temptation.

Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew), seem to have it all together – a solid marriage, three adorable children, and an unshakable faith. When Darren leaves for his first tour in Iraq, he waves off the cautions of those who have already served in conflict zones regarding how the experience can strain a marriage. “You ain’t never gonna be the same, and neither is your picture-perfect marriage,” warns Sgt. Michael Lewis (Jason George), a neighbor heading for his second deployment whose marital discord the Turners have witnessed firsthand. Darren and Heather echo the same naïveté: We’ve got this. We’re called to this. We’ll be just fine.

In Baghdad, Darren encourages the soldiers, just as he does his own children, to put on the “armor of God” — the shield and protection of faith. “God is no stranger to the battlefield,” Darren sermonizes.

As days turn to months, the Turners’ marital bond weakens. With only brief phone calls and a family website to keep in touch, a disconnect develops: Heather has no grasp of the horrors Darren sees, and Heather’s ordinary family stresses seem comparatively trivial to Darren. Ironically, he ministers effectively to his fellow soldiers even as his own marriage stumbles.

Returning stateside, Darren’s PTSD leaves him distant, disagreeable, and disillusioned. Healing is a long journey, as many war veterans have found.

It’s a true story: in film and in real life, the Turners resolve their issues and use their experiences to assist other military families who find the battle to save their marriages is as challenging as any enemy across the battlefield.

Indivisible may resonate most strongly with military families who have experienced the challenges of long separations and wartime trauma. Its underlying message of maintaining hope and faith and the power of God’s grace is one we can all appreciate.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Honor, duty and service

Born to refugee parents who had fled their native Hungary, Robert Ivany hardly seemed destined for a stellar military career that included service as an aide to an American president.

cover-july-aug-16After beginning his life in a hospital outside a displaced-persons camp in Austria, Ivany immigrated to the U.S. with his parents, settling in Cleveland’s Hungarian community and becoming a naturalized citizen at age 10. As he grew up and considered his future, he was attracted to the Army and applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“It seemed like a very noble calling and, as I tried to figure out what to do, the mission and values that West Point portrayed drew me in,” said Ivany, a member of Legatus’ Houston Chapter and one of many Legates who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Dedicated Service

Tom Wessels, past president of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter, retired in 2003 as a major general in the U.S. Army after six years of active duty and 31 years in the reserves. The son of a World War II veteran, Wessels knew as a high school student that he would go into the service. He began officer training after completing graduate school.

military-ivanyyoung

Robert Ivany

Jerry Schoenle of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, who served as a U.S. naval officer from 1984 to 1989, also heard a call to military life in high school and joined the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at the University of Michigan. He was commissioned as an ensign the same day he received his bachelor’s degree in engineering.

For Ivany, now the president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, West Point turned out to be the beginning of a 34-year Army career during which he served in Vietnam, Germany, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.

As a platoon leader in Vietnam with five tanks under his command, he was injured when a rocket fragment exploded, striking him in the back. He returned to combat within a few weeks and later received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His last military position was commandant of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

One of Ivany’s most challenging and enjoyable assignments was serving two years as a military aide to President Ronald Reagan. The position required him to be on duty every fourth or fifth day and to accompany the president outside the White House.

Robert Ivany

Robert Ivany

“If he went anywhere, the aide was in the car behind him, along with a doctor. If he was in California, one of us was with him up at the ranch. If he went horseback riding, we went horseback riding.”

Ivany said his up-close-and-personal view of Reagan was no different than the one the public saw. “I think all the aides would agree he was every bit as gentlemanly and sincere in private as he was in public. He was as gracious to the gardener in the Rose Garden as he was to the Queen of England when she walked into his office.”

What made Reagan so memorable, Ivany explained, was that he would make an extra effort to get to know people and establish a personal connection. Ivany believes this is one reason Reagan was able to achieve breakthroughs with the former Soviet Union — including the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Faith Foundation

Reagan’s diplomacy allowed Ivany to visit the land of his parents’ birth in 1990 as an adviser on the democratization of the Hungarian defense establishment. Even though had relatives in Hungary and spoke Hungarian at home, it was almost unfathomable that years later he would go as an American Army colonel to the country his parents had fled as the Soviet army approached.

During the last week of his month-long stay, he was able to have his father, mother, sister and wife Marianne join him. It was the first time in 45 years that his parents had seen their homeland.

Tom Wessels

Tom Wessels

Throughout his 34 years in the Army, Ivany said he never looked upon his service as a job, but rather a calling. The military, he said, taught him to determine and do the right thing.

“In order to do that, you have to have a spiritual foundation to your life,” he explained. “It’s more than material things in the world that truly make a life. I think that spiritual foundation has helped me a great deal and taught me perseverance.”

Ivany also credits his Catholic faith and his family for instilling in him the desire to do the right thing and to improve other people’s lives. West Point, where he later taught history and coached football, reinforced this — as did the Catholic chaplains he encountered and the intercession of those who prayed for him, he said.

Similarly, Wessels’ Catholic faith was a constant presence in his military life, which included service in Italy and Saudi Arabia. During his time as a commander, for example, his units always had chaplains, but not Catholic ones. He would attend the worship service and then seek out a Catholic Mass on his own.

“When I was a commander, they knew I was Catholic,” he said. “That’s what a Legate is. You live your faith, you talk your faith.”

Jerry Schoenle

Jerry Schoenle

Schoenle, who spent much of his career on nuclear Navy ships, said he has always had a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence and would ask the Spirit to protect him, his fellow crew members and their vessel. Serving as a Eucharistic minister on board also helped him stay closer to his faith while away from home.

He experienced what may have been his greatest need for the Spirit’s protection in 1989 off the coast of Libya when two Libyan fighter jets went after two Navy F-14s during a training exercise over the Mediterranean. Schoenle’s cruiser, which was paired with the USS John F. Kennedy and armed with air-to-air missiles, was prepared to fire if necessary.

“We help protect the carrier by being able to shoot missiles at planes or other missiles,” Schoenle explained. “I was in charge of the main damage-control unit, standing by if there was any damage to the ship or casualties.”

After attempting to avoid the Libyans, U.S. pilots shot down the two MiG-23 fighter jets. Schoenle said the incident occurred near the end of a decade of tension between the U.S. and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Supporting Veterans

Jerry Schoenle

Jerry Schoenle

In part because of his own military experience, Schoenle — a member of Legatus’ board of governors and director of global trade services for Ford Motor Co. — knows the importance of praying for those in service. He urges Legates and others to intercede for them.

“They’re obviously in difficult situations combat-wise, but they’re under attack spiritually, too, because they’re often away from a support structure or parish.” Schoenle said Legates who are business owners can also help veterans or reservists by hiring them.

In addition, said Wessels, a Merrill Lynch wealth-management adviser, employers of reservists need to be aware of military requirements for weekend training and periodic deployments. He has worked on this issue through Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which promotes cooperation and understanding between military reservists and their civilian employers. Wessels also helps the military as chairman of United Service Organization (USO) Georgia.

Ivany said Legates can assist active military by reaching out to those who live on bases and inviting those who qualify to join Legatus. He also urges Legates and others to write to active military personnel to thank them for their service.

“Those little things mean a lot,” he said, “by really being cognizant of the sacrifices they make.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

A clear and present danger

Legatus reports on the rapid de-Christianization of the United States military . . .

With Catholic priests facing the possibility of arrest during last month’s government “slimdown,” Americans of all faiths are beginning to realize the perilous situation faced by Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Chuck LiMandri

Chuck LiMandri

War on Christians

The entire situation has Chuck LiMandri fighting mad. After battling for religious liberty in the U.S. for more than a decade, LiMandri is sounding a clarion call to alert Americans about the crackdown on Christians in the military.

An attorney and founder of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, LiMandri has been speaking to Legatus chapters across the country about this massive infringement on the Constitution.

It was when he began tracking breaches of religious liberty in the military following the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that LiMandri quickly learned that chaplains and others were being pressured to support gay relationships — including gay “marriage” — regardless of their religious convictions.

“They’re being told: Either don’t enlist or check your values at the door if you’re going to be a Christian in the military,” said LiMandri, a member of Legatus’ board of governors and the San Diego Chapter.

military-1That and other encroachments on First Amendment rights in the military — and an overall growing hostility to religion, primarily Christianity, in the armed forces — are detailed in A Clear and Present Danger, a Family Research Council report issued in September.

The report states such incidents have been occurring for the last decade, but that under the Obama administration, they have intensified across all military branches — particularly in the U.S. Air Force. The report details evidence of “concerted efforts to scrub the military of religious expression, through which the chilling effect of punishment and potential career destruction lie at the back of everyone’s mind.”

Incidents that have taken place since DADT’s 2011 repeal include:

• Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk was relieved of his duties in June, a year before his planned retirement, when he disagreed with his lesbian commander, Maj. Elisa Valenzuela, after she proposed severely punishing an instructor who had objected to homosexuality on religious grounds. In August, a week after filing a discrimination complaint against Valenzuela, Monk was read his Miranda rights and told that he was the subject of a criminal investigation for making a false official statement, which he denies.

• In August, an army chaplain’s assistant was told to remove a Facebook post in which she had expressed her frustrations with pastors who endorse homosexual behavior and deny it is sinful. Her commander said the post created a “hostile and antagonistic” environment and she was threatened with disciplinary action, including a possible cut in rank and pay if she did not comply.

A dangerous trend

Jerry Boykin

Jerry Boykin

The FRC report also details the efforts of attorney Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) in 2005. Weinstein alleges that Christians — including chaplains — sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the military are guilty of “treason” and of committing “spiritual rape.” He also asserts that Christians sharing their faith in the military are “enemies of the Constitution.”

Weinstein’s group also joined the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in 2012 to prevent retired Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin from speaking at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, claiming he had made “Islamophobic” comments.

Boykin, now the Family Research Council’s executive vice president, told Legatus magazine that Weinstein’s assault on religious expression accelerated after Obama’s election and has ratcheted up even more since DADT’s repeal.

The FRC’s efforts to expose this religious cleansing generated 170,000 online signatures petitioning Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect religious liberty within the military, Boykin said. A second petition supporting Monk garnered another 50,000 signatures. FRC also organized a coalition to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to protect the religious beliefs and actions of service members in all branches of the military.

Boykin said it is not just committed Christians who feel strongly about infringements on religious liberty in the military. “It’s people who believe in the First Amendment and believe that this is a crucial issue,” he said.

The battle continues, however. Boykin said the FRC-led coalition is getting a considerable amount of feedback from military personnel who are having difficulties expressing their faith.

“The problem is very widespread,” Boykin said. “It’s the whole military, [including] the Coast Guard, National Guard units, the academies. I talk to people every week who are telling me about the struggles that they’re having.”

Boykin said the Department of Defense appears to be making a concerted effort to reduce the influence of Christianity and individual Christians inside the military. Yet, he said, the statements of convicted Fort Hood killer Maj. Nidal Hasan before his shooting rampage were ignored, even though he had told senior officers that as a practicing Muslim, he was obliged to kill infidels.

“No one did anything,” Boykin said. “What that means is that Islam is a protected religion. Contrast that with attacks on Christianity and you see a very dangerous trend in America.”

Catholic directives

Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Ron Crews, a retired army chaplain and executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said military chaplains also are facing challenges to their religious freedom — including threats of arrest for priests voluntarily ministering to men during the partial government slimdown.

In one instance, he said, a chaplain inquired at a DADT briefing whether those who believe that homosexual behavior is sinful would be able to speak accordingly. He was told, “If you can’t get in line with this position, resign your commission.”

Crews said chaplains supposedly cannot be forced to do anything that would violate their consciences, including performing same-sex “marriage” ceremonies and conducting retreats with same-sex couples as part of the military’s marriage-enrichment training.

To clarify what the Catholic Church expects of its chaplains in the armed forces, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA issued a statement Sept. 18 reiterating that no Catholic priest or deacon may be forced to witness or bless same-gender unions or assist at a marriage retreat if it’s open to same-sex couples. In addition, the statement covers counseling situations and participation in military ceremonies and funerals.

military-2Archbishop Broglio said questions remain about what chaplains can and cannot do in situations that are not confined to their immediate duties. “We believe we practice our faith all the time, not just when we’re in church. Is a chaplain in jeopardy when he teaches the Catholic faith in a situation that’s not strictly religious or a situation of worship? That remains to be seen.”

The archbishop said the current administration appears to be using its control over the military to achieve social change. “Traditionally, in most societies, the military represents a more conservative structure and certain traditional values,” he told Legatus magazine. “That’s how the military survives: with patriotism and respect for order. So if you can force that institution, which is of its nature more conservative, to be a catalyst for change, or something of a proving ground, then you have altered society.”

Although it seems like many Americans are oblivious to what’s happening in the military, LiMandri believes that if enough of them are informed and mobilized, this disturbing trend can be reversed. “We can turn things around even if only 20% of Americans feel strongly about it.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff• writer.

Priest sues federal government over base access

Suit continues despite the end of partial government shutdown

by Joan Frawley Desmond

Father Ray Leonard was slated to begin providing Catholic services on Oct. 1 at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s Ga.

But after the government shutdown, the Catholic priest, who had contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense to celebrate Mass and provide sacramental preparation for the 300 Catholic families on the base, was told he would not be able to provide such services — not even as a volunteer. (Click here for an editorial on this issue.)

Father Leonard contacted the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based public interest law firm. And on Oct. 14, legal counsel Erin Mersino filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., that challenged the policy, which was based on laws governing the funding of civilian contracts, including priests like Fr. Leonard, who are hired to bolster the ranks of Catholic military chaplains.

thompson

Richard Thompson

One day after the lawsuit was filed, three U.S. Department of Justice attorneys contacted the TMLC to alert Mersino that Fr. Leonard would be able to return to the base to perform Catholic services. Subsequently, the Navy chain of command confirmed the new guidance.

In a statement released after the government reversed its policy, TMLC’s president and chief counsel Richard Thompson expressed alarm that contract priests like Fr. Leonard had been barred from serving Catholics on military bases and described the policy as a “blatant attack on religious liberty.

“I would never have imagined that our government would ever bar Catholic priests from saying Mass under threat of arrest and prevent Catholics from participating in their religious exercises,” said Thompson. “Allowing the chapel doors to open and Fr. Leonard to fulfill his priestly responsibilities does not erase the constitutional violations that occurred. We don’t want this to occur again the next time there is a government shutdown. Our lawsuit will continue.”

JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND is the National Catholic Register’s senior editor. This article, which appeared at NCRegister.com on Oct. 16, 2013, was reprinted with permission.

Activate Your Faith

READ: A Clear and Present Danger, the Family Research Council report on religious liberty in the military
frc.org/clearpresentdanger

CONTACT: Congressman and Senators; tell them to defend religious liberty of those in the military

HELP GROUPS WORKING TO PRESERVE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund
consciencedefense.org

Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty
chaplainalliance.org

Alliance Defending Freedom
alliancedefendingfreedom.org

American Freedom Law Center
americanfreedomlawcenter.org

 

Overcoming the darkness

Editor Patrick Novecosky writes that the USA has little time to change course . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

For most people, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to allow Catholic priests contracted by the government to voluntarily minister to our troops, including Sunday Mass during a partial government shutdown.

But that wasn’t the case last month. One priest — Fr. Ray Leonard, a contractor at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia — sued the federal government for access to his base. He did not withdraw the lawsuit after the government ended the shutdown in mid-October.

Contrary to what the mainstream media were saying, 83% of the federal government was still funded and operating during the so-called shutdown. And for two Sundays in early October, President Obama’s Department of Defense prohibited 50 Catholic priests from saying Mass and administering other sacraments at U.S. military facilities across the country. While Catholic priests were barred from military bases — even to voluntarily administer the sacraments — Protestant ministers were unaffected by the shutdown. The government has not explained the discrimination.

By singling out Catholics, military leadership tipped its hand to a deeper vein of contempt for Christians in the U.S. armed services. Christian men and women in uniform are being told to park their beliefs at the door or face the consequences of a military that is rapidly being secularized. But our First Amendment freedoms do not end when we enter the classroom, the courtroom, our business place — nor should they end when we enlist to serve our country in the military.

Legate Chuck LiMandri is helping wage a legal battle to protect Christians in the military. He’s also sounding the alarm, asking Christian civilians to take notice of how men and women of faith are being weeded out of leadership positions. (Click here for a full story on this issue.) There’s a lot at stake here. In his farewell address, George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” John Adams made it clear that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

If Americans want the Republic to continue as we’ve known it — one nation under God — we have very little time to reverse course. We can only expect to maintain our rights and freedoms if we exercise them. We must always remember that knowing and living our faith publicly is the first step. As St. John wrote, we’re called to be “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness [will] not overcome it.”

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

The good fight

Legate Admiral James Ellis helps bridge the gap between faith and the military . . .

Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Retired Admiral James Ellis has shuffled through the desert sand to go to Mass, received Communion in the forecastle of an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam and attended Christmas midnight Mass at the Vatican.

Those and other experiences have marked his 39 years with the U.S. Navy, giving him a singular perspective on the relationship of faith to military service.

Like many U.S. military, Ellis, a member of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter and president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, says his Catholic faith sustained him throughout his navy career By reinforcing the standards and expectations of military life and inspiring him in times of challenge.

Core values

Although some might see military service and faith as incongruent, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services says many of the same values inherent to the life of faith — devotion to an ideal, willingness to work within a structure, and acceptance of a hierarchical value system — are also innate to the life of military personnel.

Like people of faith, men and women in uniform make sacrifices for what they perceive to be a higher good, Archbishop Broglio says. In addition, they face their own finite existence so that many seemingly significant things pale, causing them to ask fundamental questions about life and God.

This is reflected in the number of religious vocations among men with armed forces experience, Archbishop Broglio says. Of all the priests ordained in the U.S. each year, 10% have been in the military. “It’s an interesting statistic,” he says. “It makes me archbishop of the diocese that provides the most vocations, despite the fact that we desperately need more priests.”

Monsignor Marvin Borger, pastor of St. Rose Parish in Perrysburg, Ohio, spent three years as a Navy chaplain in Bahrain and on the U.S.S. Saipan, an amphibious assault vessel. He says that faith and military service have much in common — including their shared emphasis on service and core principles. For instance, he says, the Navy’s defining values are honor, courage and commitment.

In his own military career, Ellis says he never wore his faith on his sleeve, but he felt responsible for making sure that those under his command had access to the spiritual resources they needed. By showing up at religious services, especially ecumenical ones, Ellis demonstrated that faith was important to him.

“People look at you as a leader and measure you by what you stand for,” Ellis says. “The fact that you stand for something like this is an important element. It’s an additional way they can understand who you are and what your expectations are.”

Goodness and compassion

Ellis says his faith also served him personally when he was in the lonely position of being the senior officer of a ship. “Who do you talk to? Who do you confide in when the time comes? You need somebody, too, that you can have a private and candid conversation with, someone who brings a human face to that for your own needs and support.”

Often, he says, that was one of the ship chaplains. In several cases, a chaplain brought him difficult news, such as in 1996, when he was serving in Bahrain and learned that an earthquake had hit San Francisco where his family was living. “It turned out my family was OK, but you don’t know that at the time.”

In the same way, Ellis says, the news of his grandmother’s death was delivered by a chaplain in a very personal and humane way. “There is a great value in that from a personal perspective as well,” he says. “It’s not just another service you provide to the crew. It’s a very personal thing for me as well.”

Ellis says his various military duties, which included service as commander of the United States Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, restored more than challenged his faith.

Two such instances involved evacuating women and children from the Philippines after Mount Pinatubo erupted and setting up refugee camps for Albanians fleeing the Kosovo war zone. “Sometimes you have to gear up and face the enemy and do what needs to be done. But more often than not, you’re bringing goodness, compassion, caritas. That’s why faith is an important part of who we are in the military and I think it always will be.”

Overall, Ellis sees minimal differences between the Church and the military. “There is such a thing as a just war. Over time we have come to the understanding that really there are some things worth fighting for. I think the Church believes that and the military believes it. When it’s done properly with the right amount of oversight and consideration, I think we’re closer to the same answer.”

Challenges

The government’s recent repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy governing the presence of openly practicing homosexuals in the armed forces has caused tension for many Christians in the military.

Archbishop Broglio, who believes the policy should have been left in place, says he worries that activists who promoted the repeal will look for situations where they can demand further policy changes to advance the homosexual agenda. His primary concern is for chaplains who, because they serve everyone, could be accused in a counseling situation, for example, of bigotry against gays and then be subjected to an investigation.

James Ellis

Last year, Archbishop Broglio told Catholic News Agency that underlying the repeal “is an agenda to force everyone to accept — as normal and positive — behavior that is contrary to the moral norms of many religions, including the Catholic Church.”

Under DADT, Monsignor Borger says, someone’s sexual orientation was not something that was publicly proclaimed. Homosexual sailors who wanted to talk to someone about it could go to a chaplain and have a confidential conversation.

Ellis, who retired in 2004 when DADT was still in place, wouldn’t speculate on what will happen under the new policy.

Throughout his career, Ellis says, he found that having the Church as part of his life was most reassuring. “It’s something that’s there wherever you go. And when you gather [for Mass onboard], you’re not the captain of the ship anymore, you’re just one of the congregation.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.