Brigade Hail and Farewell

Hail and Farewell gatherings are a long-standing tradition in the military to welcome Soldiers just coming into the  unit and say “farewell” to those who are leaving. The Army doesn’t have a prescribed ceremony or format for Hail and Farewells, it is up to each unit to decide how often to have them and what they will be composed of.

The brigade I am leaving tried to have them every other month or so, so there was never too many being hailed or farewelled. Coming up on PCS season, however, there are a lot more changes, so they started farewelling people farther away from their actual departure than normally would be done. I was farewelled a full three months before I was scheduled to leave!

This Hail and Farewell was held at a massive buffet that had a variety of Korean, Chinese, Western and all sorts of types of food to include breads, fruits and desserts. There was too much to chose from, but it all looked good. Of course, one of the criteria for picking the location is that they have a meeting room so that we can be separated from the rest of the restaurant guests.

501st MI BDE H & F
The new Command Sergeant Major was being hailed the night I was being farewelled. When being hailed, the commander or your supervisor shares a little background about you: past assignments, family, hobbies, etc.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
When you’re being farewelled, your supervisor, or in my case the Brigade Commander, talks about your contribution to the unit mission.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Usually you’re presented a farewell gift, often the “colors” of the unit. Sometimes it’s another symbol of the unit or location. Some received a Korean Familial Bell.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
A close-up of the colors I received.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
I also received a Brigade Commander’s coin.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
The farewellee is given a chance to speak, often thanking those who contributed to their success.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Many times there are games or some other form of entertainment.
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Continuing to play a game
501st MI BDE Hail and Farewell
Of course, there’s food, too. I can’t say that I ate any of this fish…
I didn’t eat any of this fruit, either.
I did have Bulgogi Pizza






Interesting People & Curious Things

One of the things that I find most interesting when I visit other countries is the differences that exist between my culture and theirs. Often times what a Westerner thinks is odd or peculiar in another culture is completely normal or natural for them. I can just imagine the thoughts that must go through the minds of visitors to the United States when they see some of the things unique to us.

Since this interests me so much, I take a lot of pictures of those things that turn my head. Most just wind up in a file on my computer, but some of the most unusual ones I like to share. Understand that in posting these pictures I’m not making fun of, or ridiculing, Koreans in any way. Like I said, what seems odd to a Westerner is often very normal for them. I post them here just to show what I find to be unusual, through my Western eyes and the differences that exist between our cultures.

By the way, if you find this post interesting, keep coming back. I’ll add the odd and unusual here as I encounter it, acknowledging the fact that admitting what I view as “odd and unusual” may label me as “odd and unusual”!


I see a lot of Koreans sleeping on the subway. This woman kept going to sleep and would lean on me.
This elderly Korean noticed a tattoo on my Chaplain Assistant and started talking to him. He was all smiles and seemed very happy.
I thought the rolling bag seemed more Western than would be expected here (and thought that my wife would like it…since it has flowers).
This gentleman was eating lunch with a statue. It didn’t seem unusual to anyone else passing by.
Koreans do like their Spam! It seems like they have an unusual attraction to it, even giving it as gifts.
Another Korean falling asleep on the Subway…my Soldier took it like a trooper!
I was surprised to find a Goodwill Store in Suwon.
I found this sign funny. Koreans don’t strike me as being bowlers.
Asleep again on the subway!
A Korean cutting up fish on the street.
An elderly Korean woman selling her wares on the street. It seems odd to me how many booths, kiosks and carts line the roads, often with many of the same things for sale.
Many Koreans still move thins with manpower.
Many of the foods Koreans eat I just don’t find palatable.
My kids used to make sandwiches like these when they were little. I can’t believe they sell them here!
And then there’s the strawberry sandwich…
Instead of liquid soap dispensers in the public restrooms, many of them have bar soap, on a stick.
Sorry, I found this mannequin creepy!
On the way out-of-town on the train, I saw this woman sitting on a cardboard box. When she started looking through the garbage at the restaurant next store, I went to a convenience store and bought her a sandwich. I didn’t see her eat it, but she walked away with it.
You can’t tell as well in the picture, but these fixtures are all miniature for children. It’s was in the Men’s room in the Yongsan Station.
One of the Korean lunches I had. I really don’t like my fish looking at me when I eat it!
At the district assembly of a Christian church, they used a locked ballot box for one of the elections. Is there really that kind of lack of trust among Christians?
This happens in a lot of countries. I’m sure many Americans are fooled by this “Hooters Snack Bar”!
Nearly every convenience store sells squid in various forms. Yuck!
A woman with her baby on her back at a Suwon bus stop. Seems like that baby is a bit big for that kind of carry…
This one isn’t so unusual, but after I bought some of her art work, I asked if I could take a picture of her. She wanted it  in a good place in her shop, and posed appropriately.
I found this amusing. This old couple was at the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, with a beautiful scene right in front of them, but they were painting from photographs.
Just a couple of puppies on the back of a scooter.
I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like this in the U.S. but I’ve seen them a lot here. It gives you the ideal location to take a photograph.

8 May 2016 Update

Many motorcycles have these racks on the back. Some have things stacked way over their heads.
The way the ROK Soldiers at the JSA stood struck me as funny. It’s like a combination of “attention” and “parade rest” with clinched fists.
Koreans have unusual candy flavor mixtures.
Very unusual mixtures. This one is “chili nut” M&Ms!
American Indians in Korea
A group of Buddhist women taking a break between “performances” at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
A group of Koreans in traditional dress at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
A disabled man was pulling himself through town, while pushing a box. You can’t say that he just sat around waiting for a donation. I gave him a few thousand won but it never seems like enough.
This scene struck me as funny. Two girls in traditional Korean dress tied to their cell phones.

14 May 2016 Update

There are a lot of ethnic restaurants in Seoul. It seems like an extremely large amount…Here’s a Turkish restaurant with a Turkish man in traditional Turkish dress.
Compared to American trucks, I find Korean trucks very unusual (their cows look the same, though).
Riding on the subway is always interesting. As a large American, I have to squeeze into the smaller Korean-size seats. It’s also funny how so many people sit on the subway on their phones.
A little Thai boy came and sat down on the subway and started talking to one of my Soldiers, asking all kinds of questions, with just a little occasional help from his mother. I was surprised at how well he spoke English, and how he knew to speak it to my Soldier.
The escalators get packed after a subway opens its doors (the “down” side). Koreans don’t seem to mind being packed together like sardines.
A large selection of snack foods, most of which I haven’t and likely won’t try. Sorry.
These ladies struck me as interesting. When I think of “Roman Catholic” I think “Western.” It was unusual to see Korean women in dress I perceive as from a Western institution. I also found it intriguing to see them in very conservative dress surrounded by a woman with dark red lipstick on one side and short-shorts on the other…cultures colliding…

21 May 2016 Update

There are homeless everyone (any country you go). This man was right outside the subway station in Suwon. It seems like giving a few dollars (or won) isn’t doing enough to help!
It’s funny how job sites provide slippers for workers to wear inside a near-complete building so as not to damage the flooring. I don’t remember seeing this in the U.S. when I worked on construction sites.




Buddhism in South Korea

In my post about religion in South Korea, I talk more about Christianity and other non-Buddhist traditions but since Buddhism is so ingrained in Korean life and culture I wanted to spend a bit more time on it … and … I have several pictures of Buddhist temples and statues that I’ve taken that I want to share!

Laughing Buddha Suwon
A traditional “laughing” Buddha statue at a shop in Suwon.

Buddhism came to Korea from China in 372, about 800 years after the death of the original Buddha. It has grown to nearly 11 million adherents. These 11 million worship at tens of thousands of Buddhist temples located in cities and countrysides all over South Korea. For example, the small area of Suwon that I visit with Soldiers and spend about an hour walking on each trip, have 3 Buddhist temples within about a 20-minute walk of each other.

Korean thinkers developed their version of Buddhism into a more distinct version, correcting what they saw as inconsistencies in Chinese-Buddhist traditions, though is derived primarily from Seon Buddhism with other variations followed to a lesser extent.

At least early in Buddhism in Korea, many temples were located in the mountains, as a result of a practical mixture of Buddhism with Shamanism that was present in Korea before 372. Shamanism taught that the mountains were home to the spirits, so it was natural to combine Buddhist and Shaman thought in the placement of Buddhist temples. In fact, the 3 primary spirits of Shamanism remained in most Korean-Buddhist teaching and hold a place of honor and many Buddhist shrines have a place for them.

During the 500+ years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Buddhism was forced to give way to a neo-Confucianism which grew in dominance until Buddhist monks were significant players in repelling  a Japanese invasion during the 7-year war in the late 16th century which caused Buddhist persecution to come to an end. Adherents to Buddhism increased until following World War Two when Christianity’s influence increased starting a rapid decline of Buddhism in South Korea to its present place of only about 20% of the population.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to drive long before you see a Buddhist temple or statue. Much of my walking and site-seeing has been in the Suwon area, however, so the pictures I have are of 3 Buddhist temples in that area.


Suwon Buddhism
This picture was taken from the parking lot of the palace in Suwon and shows the prominence of some of the Buddhist statues.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This is the entrance to the temple that is home to the statue in the above picture. It’s above a number of small side-streets.
Suwon Buddhist temple
One of the buildings in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The statue in the center of the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Below the statue is a shrine for worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Like many Korean sites, there are slippers for you to change into before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view inside the shrine below the statue. Notice the banners hanging on the ceiling on the right and left which contain what looks like Nazi swastikas. “In Buddhism, the swastika signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as the Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart.”(1) This symbol was used in art and religion long before the Nazis used it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice to the right of the statue are notes left by worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple pagoda
A pagoda on the temple grounds
Suwon Buddhist temple
A number of small monuments on the hill above the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some type of oven on the temple grounds with small statues on it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance/exit to the temple complex. Notice the bell on the tower. “Beomjong, as Buddhist bells are called in Korean, are one of the four Buddhist instruments…” (2)
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress bell
Here’s is a better picture of a Korean Buddhist bell though this one isn’t at a Buddhist temple but on top of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (you can ring it 3 times for ₩1000).



Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance to another Buddhist temple complex in Suwon
Suwon Buddhist Temple
This temple complex has more of an appearance of a vihara, or Buddhist monastery, with living and working areas.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some of the temple complex was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t see it all. The sign on the structure above the steps is about praying for children’s testing for university attendance (a big deal in Korea).
Suwon Buddhist temple
The building housing a shrine in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice shoes sitting outside of the shrine. Shoes are always removed before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view of the inside of the shrine in the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
The inside of the entrance/exit gate of the temple complex.



Suwon Buddhist Temple
Another Buddhist temple on the other side of the Suwon River from the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This temple is larger and uses modern architectural design in contrast to the ones above which use more traditional Korean architecture. However, there is an elaborate pagoda on top of the building.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign on the temple building
Suwon Buddhist temple
A look inside the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign describing the temple complex





Some of the information for this post came from the online New World Encyclopedia.

All photos were taken by the author.



Religion in South Korea

South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).

Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.

Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.

Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.

South Korea religious preference
This graphs shows percentages of South Koreans who identify with a particular faith group. It does not include the nearly half of the population who say they are “non-religious.” Thus, percentages are of those who identify with some religion, not of the population as a whole.




A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:


A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate
A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate.
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek.
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon.


A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple between businesses down a small street in Suwon.



The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from

Some other information came from



Christmas Alone

Of the nearly 30 years that I’ve been married, I’ve been away from home at Christmas 3 times. Some would argue that a 90% at-home rate is pretty good, especially for a military family, but when you’re in the midst of that 10% absence, the 90% doesn’t bring a whole lot of Christmas cheer.

According to the Department of Defense, about 220,000 Service Members are serving overseas this Christmas season, so I’m certainly not alone and by comparison to the men and women in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t have it too bad, but all the same, it would be nice to be home with family.

Not as good as my wife makes from scratch, but not too bad!

With that said, being alone over the holidays does give one the opportunity to reflect on what is really important and on the blessings that are enjoyed, even when separated from friends and family. So, on this Christmas morning, with Christmas carols playing on the stereo and cinnamon rolls baking in the oven (see, I really don’t have it that bad!), I want to take a minute to share some of my blessings.

Unlike many men and women in uniform, I did get to go home and celebrate Thanksgiving with my family (all but one child was there!). This was a great blessing after 5 months away from home. Even having a “honey-do” list while there, just being home with my family encouraged and renewed me.

It’s also my family who continue to be a blessing. Just knowing that they’re there, “there” as in home, is a blessing. To have the love of a family who cares, blesses more than words can adequately express. To know that my home is where my family is -even if I’m not there- and that that home is full of those I love and who love me is a wonderful thought that helps to get me through these difficult times.

While my wife is part of the family I’ve already mentioned, she brings an even greater blessing to me. She has to take up much of the slack when I’m away. She has to be the mother and the father. She has to take care of the repairs and maintenance…and she also has to deal with me being away from home. The knowledge of her commitment not only to me, but to my calling is a blessing of saintly proportions. To know that she is not only behind me in what I do, but often beside me when I do it, enables me to drive on when the road seems too hard to travel.

Area II Protestant Community Christmas Eve Service at South Post Chapel, USAG Yongsan

When away from home, our reliance on other relationships for support becomes more important. For me, these relationships are best found in the Church, the family of God. Having the opportunity to worship with another part of the Body of Christ during one of the most important holy days of the year is a blessing that lives on and continues wherever the military takes me.

With recent messages received, I’m reminded of the blessing of my church family at home, as well. A pastor and wife who remember me in prayer and the rest of the church family who look after my family while I am away is a blessing for me now and will be a blessing for them later.

There are also those unexpected blessings that come. Since I’ve been in Korea, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and fellowship with people I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to know, like a pastor and his family of my denomination who is ministering here in Seoul. And like the missionary from South Africa, also from my denomination,  who was here visiting a family member and I was able to have lunch with. To be able to have coffee or lunch and great conversation in person with Christian friends (and thinkers) is an immense blessing.

Bottom line, wherever I go, I know that God is there. Whatever I face, I know that God goes with me. Whatever discouragement I may feel, I know that God comforts me. So really, I’m not alone at all. The Jesus who I celebrate today is with me. The God who chose to become man and walk on this earth with humankind, continues to be present with me today. This is a true blessing. The salvation that He brings me, makes this Christmas -and every Christmas- more than just a holiday to celebrate with family and friends, but a relationship to experience which never leaves me alone and never leaves me wanting. Alone this Christmas? Not by a long shot!



Unaccompanied Baggage

Moving to a new location is never fun, especially when it’s on the other side of the world and by air. The amount of things I could bring with me is governed by Department of Defense (DoD) and Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR), in addition to what I’m able to practically carry with me through the airports and on the planes. I decided on just two large suitcases and my carry-on, though the Army would have paid for 2 additional pieces of checked baggage. So I arrived to Korea with very little. When a Service Member, with or without their family, makes a move, what they carry with them is just a portion of what they can take. We’re also authorized a certain number of pounds of “unaccompanied baggage” (UB) which comes by air and a certain number of pounds of “household goods” (HG) which come by sea.

Since I was coming alone and planned to be in on-post quarters where overseas the furniture is provided, I opted not to move any household goods but did send some unaccompanied baggage. My UB consisted of the books from my library that I would need while I am here (more on my library later), sermon notes and outlines, my Army-issued gear (TA-50) along with uniforms, the civilian clothes that I want (both for free-time and worship services) and any other convenience and comfort items I may need to include linens, small appliances, etc.

Part of the weight we are permitted to ship includes what is called “Professional Books, Papers and Equipment” or “Pro-Gear” for short. So my TA-50, books used in the performance of my job, my chaplain kit and other professional items don’t count against my permitted weight, though the government is beginning to cut down on how much pro-gear is permitted. It use to be unlimited, which I really needed due to the size of my library. The regulations said that allowable pro-gear included what you may use in the performance of your duties in your next or future assignments. This move, I was told I could bring as pro-gear the books I would use on this assignment, but only ones that weren’t available online or digitally. Ouch! That’s going to hurt on my next move! Since this is a short and limited tour however, I was able to get by with less pro-gear, primarily fewer books.

Today was the day that my UB was delivered so I finally have more clothes (though wrinkled!), an iron, additional towels and linens and the quilt my wife made and sent to me during one of my previous deployments. So my quarters are finally starting to feel a little bit more like home, though prominently missing family…

Having just been delivered today, I haven’t been able to unpack and shelve my books yet, but I think that will be one of my leisure activities for Saturday. Working in my library also seems to put me in a better mood so it will be a good end to a busy week. Once I get unpacked I’ll post pictures of my office, to include my “deployment” library, so you can see what type of facilities I work and minister out of.


The Commissary

Staying at the hotel, then once moved into my quarters and not having time to get to the commissary I’ve been having to eat out every meal. This is getting old! Finally today after work I had time to get to the commissary to get some food. I was limited on how much I could get since I had to take a taxi to my quarters, but at least I got a start.

CommissaryI was surprised at how large and well-stocked the commissary is. I could find just about anything I was looking for, with the exception of turkey lunch meat, which I thought was odd. It could just be that they were out, but the only packaged lunch meat I found was roast beef and salami. Curious.

At any rate, I was able to get some food in the frig and cupboards so I can eat at home more.


Not a lot, but enough for now.
Not a lot, but enough for now.
Got to have some junk food, right?
Got to have some junk food, right?
They sure make a big deal about their eggs!
They sure make a big deal about their eggs! (I know that the picture is upside down. Baffled).
Spam, yes! Interestingly, spam is much-loved here in Korea!
Spam, yes! Interestingly, spam is much-loved here in Korea!


After seeing the apartment where they wanted to put me and feeling so down and wanting even more to go home, I got to thinking about other possibilities and looked up AR 210-50, “Housing Management” where at 3-6, n. it states, “Unmarried chaplains and unaccompanied married chaplains will compete equally for AFH [Accompanied Family Housing] with sponsors within the appropriate grade category.” Could it be? Dare I hope?

This provision has been used primarily for Roman Catholic chaplains who seldom have family and shouldn’t be stuck in single-Soldier housing just because their faith demands they remain single, but the provision “unaccompanied married chaplains” opens it up to any chaplain, regardless of marital or religious status, to be eligible for family housing. There is a variety of reasons for this, to include the need for study space away from the commotion of the office, accommodations to meet with Soldiers when they can’t meet at the chaplain’s office, Bible Studies or “presence” social gatherings. Essentially, often the chaplain needs additional space for the performance of his duties much like a commander does, so this provision in Army regulations allows for it.

I went in to talk to the housing office about it and referenced the regulation but the representative I met with didn’t know anything about it so referred me to her supervisor. When I sat down with the supervisor, she looked at my cross (I was in uniform) and said, “Oh, you’re a chaplain! Let’s see what we can do.” She then gave me two duplexes to look at and told me to let her know if either would be acceptable.  I looked at the first and it was in a great location with an abundance of trees and seclusion. It seemed to also be a two-bedroom, with the 2nd bedroom used as an office. But it was older and worse for the wear but the size and location made it leaps and bounds better than the 1st apartment they showed me.

The 2nd duplex looked newly remodeled from the outside. When I got inside it looked as though nobody had stayed in it since it had been remodeled. It had all new appliances, cabinets, shelving and bathroom fixtures. I couldn’t believe it! It didn’t take me long to decide on this one. I rushed back to housing, afraid she would give it to someone else before I confirmed that I wanted it. We set an appointment for Monday for the inspection and to sign for it.

I feel much better!

Here are a few pictures of my new -better- home for the next year (a little askew, sorry…I like them straight and in order too):

Yongsan BOQ Outside
Here’s the outside of my duplex, my door is on the left. I sure don’t like those trash cans, though!
Yongsan BOQ Living Room
A view of the living room which is actually a “great room” with the kitchen on the other side. The TV stand is still empty, giving me more time to blog!


Yongsan BOQ Laundry Room
I have a humungous laundry room (the other half isn’t in the picture!) with a large closet with shelving for storage…but I didn’t bring that much stuff!
Yongsan BOQ Kitchen
Here’s the other side of the “great room” showing the kitchen. There’s not a lot of cabinet space, but I really don’t need much.


Yongsan BOQ Bedroom
Here’s one side of the giant walk-in closet in the bedroom…I don’t have that many clothes!
Yongsan BOQ Bathroom
The bathroom has a shower big enough for a crowd (though I don’t plan on sharing!).


Yongsan BOQ Bedroom
Here’s the other side of the walk-in closet.
Yongsan BOQ Bedroom
The closet side of the bedroom.


Yongsan BOQ Bedroom
A double bed, but it’s a hard one!
Yongsan BOQ Bedroom
There’s room in the bedroom for a bookcase and my desk, though efficiency experts say not to do that….