Erik Alfsen, Battalion chaplain, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), plays a guitar during the candlelight service at Chapel Next on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Dec. 24, 2012. Soldiers and civilians participated in the traditional Christmas service, celebrating the holiday season despite being deployed and away from their families. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brian Smith, TF 3/101 Public Affairs)
Soldiers and civilians participate in a candlelight service at Chapel Next on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Dec. 24, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brian Smith, TF 3/101 Public Affairs)
“We usually expect to see an increase in family and relationship problems following the holidays,” said Capt. Justine Majeres, the brigade psychologist. “The stress of being away from family is only compounded by our environment.”
This is an issue that the 3rd Brigade religious support teams were keenly aware of as they prepared for the holiday season.
“The message of Christmas is extremely relevant to our lives right now,” said Capt. Jeffery Crispin, Battalion chaplain, 626th Brigade Support Battalion.
“Our soldiers need peace and hope now more than ever,” said Capt. Willie Newton, battalion chaplain, 3rd Special Troops Battalion. “That's what we're here to give them. We need to be a calming presence in the midst of the storm.”
The chaplains of the 3rd BCT collaborated together in four different services to mark the holiday, including two Catholic masses, a Protestant candlelight Christmas Eve service, and a Protestant Christmas morning service.
These worship opportunities were open for anyone who wanted to celebrate.
“Getting a chance to go to midnight mass in Afghanistan was very meaningful to me,” said Sgt. Michael Mason, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. “It brought a lot of comfort and encouragement.”
All of the services were well attended. In particular the candlelight service had over 80 soldiers present, filling the small chapel. “Out of all the holiday events I've helped with, this one had the best response,” said Spc. Erika Espeseth, chaplain's assistant, 3rd STB. “I think the service went really well.”
Emotions ran deep throughout the congregations as the Christmas story was told through the reading of scripture and