One of the responsibilities of any chaplain is to contribute to the religious support mission of the garrison on which he/she serves. While in Korea I had the opportunity to pastor the Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation at Memorial Chapel, which is coming to a close after over 25 years due to the transformation of U.S. forces to Camp Humphreys in order to return the area now occupied by USAG Yongsan to the Republic of Korea.
One of the traditions of this congregation that took place annually for many of those 25 years was taking the worship service to a park with a cook-out and picnic following. Today was the day for this annual picnic. We had over 40 in attendance, which represented most of the congregation. There was a threat of rain, but it held off until we were through so we only dealt with the wind that kept us holding our papers tightly.
The choir joined in the hymns and sang the anthem as well as they do in the chapel. When I first arrived in the service, I was amazed at the quality of the music for such a small congregation. Here’s a short video of the chorus of today’s anthem:
Wherever you go in the military, a tradition that you experience is the military ball. Often annually, sometimes before or on return from deployment; units, schools and commands take the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishment of their mission, their safe return from combat, or continued alliances with coalition partners.
Tonight, my brigade sponsored the ball for the Intelligence community in South Korea, with guests and participants from both U.S. and ROK forces. With over 700 in attendance it was quite the event. As with most ceremonies and events, as the brigade chaplain I was called upon to pray…twice. Here are some pictures from the evening (though a combination of the lighting and using my phone/camera mean they’re not that great):
Ceremony prayers aren’t that exciting since people don’t come for the prayers, but here are the two I prayed at the MI Ball tonight:
First, the Invocation:
Dear Gracious Heavenly Father,
I thank you for this day you have given us and for this occasion that we gather together to celebrate the alliance which exists between the United States and the Republic of Korea, particularly tonight- in the Intelligence community.
We realize that it is our ability to work together that preserves the armistice and protects the freedom and independence of our friends.
I thank you for all of those involved in this task before us, from the newest private to the most experienced officer, and pray for each of them that they will be protected as they perform their duties but also that they will be blessed because of the significance of our mission.
I pray now that you will be with us tonight as we celebrate the successful, continued, execution of our mission and the alliance we enjoy with each other. Bless this time with your presence and bless each one here gathered.
In your holy name I pray, Amen.
Then the Benediction or closing prayer:
Thank you for this time that we’ve had together: The honors, the entertainment, the laughs, and the good food.
Thank you again for all of those here, and all the others who are serving both in uniform and as civilians, in the defense of freedom in the Republic of Korea and around the world.
Thank you also for your presence with us here this evening so far, and as we continue to celebrate. I pray that you will continue to be with us, both those here and those traveling home.
Finally, Lord, I pray that you will provide safety tonight and in the days ahead. And I pray that you will especially bless the Republic of Korea and the United States of America as we live and serve together.
Occasionally Unit Ministry Teams offer events to help Soldiers develop personally, professionally and spiritually. Our brigade UMT offered one such event today. We named it, “Soldier and KATUSA Spiritual Development Day.” Our plan was to have U.S. and Korean veterans from the Korean War to speak to our Soldiers, and I would provide a presentation on “Behaving Valiantly in War and Peace.” We would round out the day with a movie that explains the Korean experience, “Ode to My Father,” with lunch provided, of course.
MAJ Kim, the ROK Army officer in charge of our KATUSAs, introduced our guest speaker, MG Joon Hyung Ryu, with these comments (edited only for better translation):
The guest today is MG (Retired) Ryu, Joon Hyung who participated in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and served as the Deputy Commander of ROK-US Field Command.
The Korean War refers to the 3 year war which started when North Korea invaded ROK at 0400 on June 25th with the support of the Soviet Union and lasted 1,129 days until both sides agreed to a truce at 1000 on July 27, 1953.
It was a tragic and fierce war that almost two million Soldiers among 26 nations took part in on this small peninsula. There were 620,000 ROKA, 160,ooo U.N., 930,000 North Korean, 1,000,000 Chinese, and 2,500,000 civilian casualties and also resulted in 10,000,000 separated family members, more than half of the 30,000,000 North and South Koreans.
Even now, the Korean Peninsula suffers from division after over 60 years.
MG Ryu was commissioned as a 1LT in November 1950 and is a war hero who stood up and defended Hill #854 on the eastern front line in Injaegoon, Gangwon Province from the final attack of the Chinese and North Korean armies. This battle is called the Battle of Ssangyong Highland.
MG Ryu was the first Korean to graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry Airborne School in 1957 and on 1 April 1958, he became the main founding member of the 1st Airborne Brigade which is now the Special Operations Command.
After that, he was deployed to the Vietnam War and distinguished himself serving on the command staff of various main units.
In 1980 he worked as the Commanding General of the 8th Infantry Division then in 1982, became the Deputy Commander of the ROK-US Field Command. In 1985 he retired as a Major General.
After retirement, he actively worked as the Chairman of the Korean Parachute Association and Defense Industry Association. Now he is the Chairman of the Patriot Lee Dong Hwi Memorial Organization who was head of the Military Ministry and the first Prime Minister.
I introduce to you ROK war hero, MG Ryu.
MG Ryu presented a history of Korea-International relations, highlighting relations with the United States and the significance and necessity of the Korean-U.S alliance. It was great to hear about history from one who was part of that history.
Coincidentally, the INSCOM Chaplain was visiting Korea so was in attendance and added to MG Ryu’s presentation, tying in the importance of what we, as U.S. Soldiers, do here in Korea and how even we are in the midst of making history as we preserve the peace and defend freedom on the Korean Peninsula.
Next, MAJ Kim also introduced the film, “Ode to My Father” with these comments:
The film you are going to see today is a Korean movie named “Ode to My Father,” or literally translated from the Korean, “International Marketplace.” It is a film about Korean fathers after the Korean War of the 1950s.
After the war, many people lost everything and some families were separated forever.
This movie depicts the heartbreaking story about fathers who had to travel to West Germany coal mine and sacrifice their lives in the Vietnam War just to rebuild the nation of Korea and protect their families.
My own mother was an only daughter of an affluent family in North Korea and was a refugee who fled from the Chinese Army’s invasion of ROK in a U.S. transportation ship. She is one of 10 million separated families due to the war.
The story of the movie is more than a random family’s history, it is a people’s history of overcoming [adversity] that all of ROK citizens had to suffer.
I hope this film will be a better opportunity to understand Korea and the Korean people.
We provided lunch from Subway (which is always a treat) and showed the film which is the story of a family who was separated during the evacuation of North Korea as China was invading from the North.
Most of the time, higher headquarters are located near their subordinate units. Sometimes, however, higher headquarters are more distant, like here in Korea, my higher headquarters are located near Washington D.C. Also, usually there is a clear chain of command to those higher headquarters, but sometimes there are dotted lines of command as well as multiple chains. That is the case with my brigade and the subordinate battalions. Being in Korea, we have “dotted-line” chains of command to 8th Army and U.S. Forces Korea and in the event of resumed hostilities in Korea, Combined Forces Command. With all of the organic and “dotted-line” chains of commands and technical/supervisory chains, there is the potential of many different VIPs coming to Korea.
This week, one of my battalions had such a visit. This battalion is muddled with solid and dotted lines and a Chaplain (Colonel) from one of their higher commands visited the battalion and its chaplain. Adding to the “muddle” is that this chaplain is in a joint billet, so is an Air Force chaplain, visiting an Army battalion.
One of the things that this chaplain did while in Korea was present a “safeTALK” which is a half-day of training on suicide prevention, awareness and intervention. There were 30 or so Soldiers present for this training which helps them identify Soldiers in crisis and intervene to prevent suicide.
Since this Chaplain (Colonel) came from the U.S., the battalion chaplain did much of the coordination for his visit and for the class, so she was honored with the presentation of the visiting chaplain’s coin of excellence which is always a thrill to receive.
After the safeTALK presentation and before the visiting chaplain continued his visit with site tours and office calls, we went to lunch in “The Ville” at a nice South African restaurant called Braai Republic. With us were a couple of gentlemen who are civilian contractors in the same organization as the visiting chaplain, and a clinical psychologist in a related organization. It’s always great to visit with other chaplains, especially senior chaplains, and pick their brain to learn from them and their experiences. We had a good time of conversation while waiting for, and eating, our meal.
After lunch, it was rush back to post for him to continue his visit at the battalion before he moved on to Osan Air Base then to Japan before returning to the U.S.
Outside of combat, it is not all that often when a Soldier in a unit dies. The exceptions are unfortunate, but demand that the unit properly and respectfully honor that Soldier. The options for the unit are essentially two: a Memorial Service or a Memorial Ceremony. The difference in the two are basically that a Memorial Service is religious in nature, while a Memorial Ceremony is patriotic in nature. A Memorial Service, being a religious service, cannot be required attendance for Soldiers, but since a Memorial Ceremony is basically patriotic (though with religious elements) the Soldiers of the unit can be required to attend, though in most circumstances the majority of the unit will want to be a part of the ceremony honoring their fallen comrade even when not required.
This week, a battalion in my brigade had the opportunity to honor a Soldier who was involved in an automobile accident. This Soldier was proficient and well-liked, so his loss was deeply felt by the unit, especially those in the deceased Soldier’s section. The Memorial Ceremony was an opportunity not only to honor the Soldier who died but also to give an opportunity for the unit to grieve together and begin to heal from their loss.
Here are some pictures from the Memorial Ceremony:
Following the “Last Roll Call,” the Honor Guard firing squad provides a 21-gun salute.
Upon completion of the 21-gun salute, the bugler plays Taps, out of sight of those in the ceremony, but where he can be heard by them. This isn’t the best of videos, but it shows the honor rendered to the fallen Soldier. This bugler did an excellent job.
While Memorial Ceremonies are not usually attended by family members, sometimes they are. This ceremony had the Soldier’s father in attendance. A video of the ceremony will also be sent to the other family members as a remembrance of the Soldiers honorable service and to show how the unit honored that service and the memory of the Soldier.
Memorial Ceremonies and Services are not only an effort to honor the fallen Soldier but also to provide an opportunity for the unit -often the Soldier’s closest friends- to remember, memorialize and honor their friend and comrade. Additionally, they give an opportunity for those Soldiers to grieve their loss and begin to heal and recover. This ceremony, with the remembrances shared by the unit leadership and friends and the message by the chaplain, went a long way toward bringing this healing to the unit’s Soldiers.
The U.S. forces in Korea have a large number of KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to U.S. Army) Soldiers working with us. The chaplain’s offices often have a KATUSA assigned to them. In my brigade, we have a KATUSA as part of the BDE UMT and one of our battalions also has a KATUSA. These KATUSAs are doing a 2-year tour of duty with about 18 months of it on assignment with us. They receive their rank based on time-in-service. My KATUSA was recently promoted to corporal and the battalion KATUSA was just promoted to sergeant. To help him celebrate his promotion, we went to Dino Prime Meat Bar in Pyeongtaek, a great meat buffet. Here’s some pictures:
One of the side benefits of “deployment” is being able to see and experience different countries and cultures. Another “plus” for me is getting to interact with nationals who are in my denomination in another country. I had that opportunity yesterday when I was able to attend the district assembly of the Korea National District of the Church of the Nazarene at Korea Nazarene University (KNU) in Cheonan, South Korea. District assemblies are held annually by each district in the Church of the Nazarene and is presided over by one of the 6 general superintendents. This year, the presiding general superintendent for Korea was David W. Graves, who I already know from several assemblies and other services in the U.S. Dr. Graves and I have a further connection in that his father (Harold Graves) was the District Superintendent on the Southwestern Ohio District where I grew up and received my first District Minister’s License.
Attending the district assembly and experiencing the welcome and hospitality given me was an extreme honor and at the same time humbling. By the way I was treated, one would think that I was really “somebody” while I was the one being blessed and encouraged!
To drive to Cheonan, the location of KNU, would take over 2 hours, so I took the Intercity Train Express (ITX) from Yongsan Station. The public transportation in Korea is unbelievable. You can get just about anywhere in Korea in some combination of train, subway or bus, not to mention the thousands of taxis always available about anywhere you are. Depending on the station you use, you can get a Korea Train Express (KTX) from Seoul to Cheonan that takes just about 30 minutes and 20,000 won or an ITX that takes about an hour for just 9,000 won. The subway is much cheaper, but also makes a lot of stops so takes a lot longer. The subway is often better than driving, but may not be a time-saver. Once I arrived at the Cheonan Station, I was going to take a taxi to KNU but my first Korean national/Nazarene pastor friend offered to arrange for a pastor in Cheonan to pick me up at the station which saved me some time and a few thousand won.
When we arrived at KNU, I expected to be directed to the auditorium where the assembly would be taking place and grab a seat in the back, but instead I was escorted to a conference room where the district leaders and other VIPs were gathering awaiting the arrival of the General Superintendent and start of the district assembly. Once everyone had arrived, we were all led to the auditorium where I was given a seat up front as the pre-service singing had already begun.
Once I was moved to a better seat (with assembly VIPs) and given headphones to hear the interpretation, the service was underway. I’ll post most of the other pictures with brief descriptions under each one.
The KNU Cafeteria where I, as part of the GS entourage, was provided lunch.
The lunch we were given at the KNU Cafeteria. Some of it was good…some of it requires an acquired taste. The soup was yet to come but was way too hot for me to eat.
Following dinner with Dr. & Mrs. Graves, Mark Louw (the Asia-Pacific Regional Director) & his wife and daughter and several district leaders, at a really good western-style restaurant (I was really ready for a good steak!) we returned to KNU for the ordination service where 14 ministers were ordained and 1 was recognized from another denomination. Beyond the thrill of being part of a service of Nazarenes in a country so distant from mine, the joy of watching future leaders of the International Church of the Nazarene enter into the ordained ministry was great. Here are some pictures from the this night.
Old & New Friends
I think that I was a bit of a novelty at the district assembly, not only as an American but as an Army chaplain. Several people asked to have a picture taken with them and I asked a few, too. Below are some of those pictures with a bit of description (as best as I can remember).
(Sort of) Prepared Remarks
Preachers, ministers and chaplains are always ready to speak when asked to. When I’m in a situation when I think I might be called upon to bring greetings or to report, I have in mind an idea of what I might say. This day was no different. Not expecting to be asked to share, but wanting to be ready just in case (I kept being surprised all day), I had this in mind to say:
It is my honor to represent the Church of the Nazarene as a chaplain in the United States Army.
It is my privilege to serve the Army and my church in the Land of the Morning Calm.
It is my joy to be here today with fellow Nazarenes, brothers and sisters in Christ.
While we do not share a common language or culture, we share a common Savior and Lord. I am truly blessed to be with you here today.
I’ve finally about got my office set up for my stay in Korea. I’ve unpacked my books, arranged my furniture and desk and hung some pictures. It’s a good space. The Unit Ministry Team (Chaplain & Chaplain Assistant, and in Korea a KATUSA) actually has a suite because of the work that we do. There’s a comfortable place for a few people to sit, along with books and Bibles they can take with them. The chaplain assistant has an office while the KATUSA has a desk by the door, kind of like a “receptionist.” Then I have my office for work, study and counselling. We try to make it an inviting place.
My office has a window which opens to a school. Most every day I hear the children out playing on the playground…sure, I won’t miss my kids! But it is actually nice to hear cheerful noises rather than what the military often offers!
O.K, it wasn’t really my first prayer, but my first public prayer in my first ceremony in this assignment since I arrived in Korea.
Praying at ceremonies is the chaplain’s “bread and butter.” It is one of the things that we’re always expected to do, and it always happens without anyone giving it much thought. In fact, seldom is there a picture found, among the dozens often taken of the various ceremonies, that includes the chaplain! But that’s OK, we don’t do it for the glory or to be in the limelight, but to represent the presence of God and ask for his blessing upon the ceremony and the participants. (But if you look close in the picture, you can see my right arm and leg!).
I had the opportunity to pray today at the brigade’s Headquarters & Headquarter’s Company (HHC) change of command ceremony. Change of Command Ceremonies take place whenever one commander leaves and another arrives and assumes command. It is an Army tradition that reflects the heritage of the military and is full of traditional elements, including a prayer (sometimes two). I seldom get nervous before ceremonies or events that I am a part of but I wanted (and always want) to do a good job, representing God, the Chaplain Corps and my denomination. The first one after arriving at a unit is often the most important since it’s the first time my commander, and others in the unit, will see and hear me do what I do, so the pressure is on to do a good job. I do realize, however, that I’m not praying to any of them and the effectiveness of my prayer is not dependent on their approval or satisfaction, but at the same time, they recognize the chaplain’s prayer as representative of one of the things the chaplain brings to the unit.
My prayer went something like this:
Most Gracious Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this day and for this occasion that brings us together which reminds us not only of the strength of our military but also the peace and freedoms it preserves, not only in our country but in our host country of South Korea and in fact, around the world.
Thank you for Captain [outgoing commander], for his commitment to the unit’s mission and Soldiers over this past year. Continue to be with him as he moves on to his next assignment.
I also ask that you will add to what Captain [incoming commander] brings to the unit everything that she needs to lead with wisdom, courage and integrity as she assumes command.
Finally Lord, I pray that you will bless this time with your presence and that what we do here today will be a blessing to you.
You have come to the blog about my “deployment” to Korea (thanks for stopping by, by the way!). This page, with posts being in “real time,” will be in the normal blog format, that is the most recent post will be on top (directly below this one). However, since this “deployment” is complete, it will make better sense to view the posts in actual chronological order. To see them in order, follow this link, other wise just scroll down and you’ll see the last post first and so on. Alternatively, you can navigate to older posts through the “archive” or “recent posts” widgets on the right side of the page. You can also jump to specific categories (Food & Drink, History, Life & Family, Military, Ministry, Travel & Siteseeing) by using the links on the “categories” widget.