Thanks again, MRFF

There’s a Japanese proverb that I think about often: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”.
Anyone in the military probably has probably heard that proverb.   We JOKE about that proverb.
Our jokes are not always very funny.  Why isn’t it funny?  Because the whole point is that it’s dangerous to be different.
The military… well… the military is SPECIAL.  At any level of rank, you are put into a highly structured group of people (above AND below you) that you’ve probably never met before and you have to learn to work together.  Also, you move around a lot, and your reputation follows you.  It’s not easy to regain lost ground.  You DO NOT want to be the weird guy.  You DO NOT want to be the guy that isn’t a team player.  You DEFINITELY do not want to be a complainer.  You do not want to “stick out”, at all.
I could go on about this for some time.  Most people outside the military probably don’t realize that military personnel are subject to a QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE REVIEW from their immediate superior, called an OER or an NCOER.  At higher levels the vast majority of people with any control of career direction DON’T KNOW YOU.  They don’t see you, they see your picture and they see a stack of these performance reviews.  Oh, and they see your ORB/ERB (Officer or Enlisted Record Brief), which by the way HAS YOUR RELIGION printed right on it… but I won’t go there.
I won’t go into detail about the performance review process, but the end result is that the people around you and immediately above you can have a HUGE influence on your future, and that influence is in writing, and it doesn’t go away.  And that’s just the paperwork side.  The fact is that these are people you are counting on to LITERALLY SAVE YOUR LIFE and you DO NOT want to be the outsider, the guy with religious beliefs or political opinions that maybe are not… let’s say “politically correct”.
What does it mean?  It means at a Change of Command ceremony, or a memorial ceremony, when the Chaplain says “let us pray”, you bow your head and pretend to pray. You just do it.  When they’re handing out tickets to the next Prayer Breakfast you should probably take one.  The Commander will be there.  It will be good for your career.  All of these things really happen!  It is basically normal for religious events or “Chaplain-led” events to cross the line into being official functions.  (Hey, Chaplains get OERs too you know.)
Am I exaggerating?  Allow me to mention please that Chapel attendance was official and MANDATORY at West Point until **1976**.
Things change, certainly, but not all at once, and certainly not in what is arguably the most traditional and most conservative public institution in the country.  And believe it or not, there are people that want to turn back the tide.  Trust me, if you can do it, find a high-ranking Chaplain with a cross on his uniform, like a COL or a LTC and look right into his eyes and say “mandatory Chapel attendance”.
Someone needs to do something.  MORE IMPORTANTLY, someone just needs to SAY something, and keep on saying it, and no one understands that as well as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and no one does it as well as Mikey Weinstein.  I’m on the mailing list, and I am constantly impressed at the calibre of people that Mr. Weinstein is willing to yell at.  Indeed, I dare to aspire that some day (when my military career is long over, of course) that I too might have the courage to call a Joint Base Commander and question his motivations while death threats quietly fill up all my comments sections.
I am also constantly impressed by the promptness (I will even say IMMEDIACY) with which the MRFF and Mikey Weinstein respond to complaints, and above all, I am impressed by the breadth and depth of the network that the MRFF has accumulated over the years.  The MRFF has a rare ability to combine the advantages of a broad network with the importance of *anonymity*.  (Did I mention that it’s dangerous to be different?)
This is a network not only of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Veterans, military families, etc., etc., but it extends quite far into the media as well.
I went from not being sure who to talk to, to actually having a local reporter hearing my side of the story, basically over night, and I really can’t thank you enough.  (Active Duty U.S. Army Soldier’s name, rank, MOS and unit all withheld)


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