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NEWS | Feb. 13, 2020

JBLE chaplains celebrate acceptance and unity

By Senior Airman Monica Roybal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Fort Eustis Deputy Garrison Chaplain Office hosted the annual National Prayer Breakfast for service members and community leaders to celebrate religious freedom through prayer and discussion at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Feb. 11, 2020. 

The event here honors the annual tradition held in Washington, D.C. since the inaugural breakfast in 1953 and serves as a forum for local leaders to examine the importance of religious freedom, its progression and its impact on military members.  

“We all come from different backgrounds and there are so many cultural differences, especially in the military, so it’s important to come together as brothers and sisters in arms to acknowledge and appreciate those differences,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Harold Brown, Deputy Garrison Chaplain Office senior chapel noncommissioned officer in charge of Fort Eustis. 

JBLE chaplains of various denominations led group prayers to further highlight diversity and acceptance within the military fellowship. Chaplains and JBLE leaders shared their thoughts on the value of ensuring all faith groups have the opportunity to express their beliefs.

“As service members, we’re fighting our common enemy on the battlefield; we don’t need to fight each other about individual beliefs,” Brown continued. “The Chaplain’s office is made up of chaplains of different faiths so we can cater to all of our military members’ needs. We want everyone to see how our Chaplains of Islamic faith work closely with our Chaplains of Catholicism as well as all the faiths that we represent.”

Event attendees ate breakfast and learned about why the Armed Forces worked to establish rights for service members’ religious freedom. Guest speaker, Eric Patterson, Ph. D, Religious Freedom Institute executive vice president, spoke of JBLE’s local history in Jamestown where early American settlers fought to create the foundation impacting service members and their families today.

“I’m very proud that we live in a country that historically has valued religious rights across denominations and across religious sectors,” Patterson said. “The chance to gather for prayer is remarkable and important. Certainly opportunities like this are what I call free exercise equality. The free exercise of religion is just a fundamental part of who we are.”

Although the National Prayer Breakfast is rooted in the nation’s capital, its significance has prompted U.S. states, cities and military installations to host their own annual breakfasts to revere and accept one another in the name of unity.