Sunday, October 11, 2015

Retiring the MSgt

 It is powerful to be a part of a retirement with full honors - two squadrons, the band, Old Glory and beautiful words by the CO and him. 

As a chaplain, I get to bless retiring service members.I work hard to choose my words carefully as I only get one shot at elevating the moment into sacred space.

Fair winds and following seas, MSgt. You earned it.

Below is my invocation for MSgt:

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

You have taught us that when friends part ways, they do so with blessings on their lips. In following Your example, Lord, we invoke Your name on behalf of MSgt Rieper.

For 25 years, MSgt Rieper has served You faithfully, from Okinawa to the US, around the globe and back again. Bless him with a smooth transition, filled with meaningful moments.

Lord, MSgt Rieper went where he was told, regardless of the danger. He was in the Arabian Gulf, Iwakuni, Iraq, Afghanistan. Bless him with healing from all the wounds only can You see.

MSgt has not only had the privilege of serving You but to our POTUS as well. Bless him that when he reflects back on his time in the Corps, he will remember the highlights and the lowlights fade.

God, as You are our life-giver, MSgt has been our life-sustainer. He has fed so many Marines and Sailors that he has probably lost count. He has minded Your flock and done so with genuine love for others. Bless him that he is cared for as he cared for so many. Bless him through people he does not know, just as his actions cared for so many he did not know.

Source of strength, the Marine Corps bestowed upon Msgt the status of Centurion because of his ability to guide others on their journey into the Corps. Lord, escort him through the next stage of his life, that he may be a leader, where ever he It chooses.

And God, if we can be so bold, we ask that You bless the fruits of his labor, as he has sown the seeds of honor, courage and commitment these last 25 years.

And to that, we all say, Amen.

Old Glory performed by his Mess Hall Marines as they passed him his retirement flag.


With so much going on and trying to balance squadron needs with the Jewish New Years and High Holy Days, I appreciate the Tashlich ceremony that much more.

On the Sunday in between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, we went to Baba Park and physically shed our sins in the hopes that our actions will transcend into actual future actions.

There is no real set liturgy.

Therefore, I stood there in silence, listening to the waves. I considered my actions this past year and the things I wanted to change about me. I asked God to take this act of contrition as one coming from a place of true repentance.

I felt comforted in knowing that my community was around me. So as I was feeling vulnerable, I was not alone. 

Our timing was perfect as we left because soon after, it began to rain. My mother says that rain is always "Mazeldik" (good luck). I'll take all the signs I can get.

Lance Corporal Seminar

I have the privilege of teaching a class in the Lance Corporal seminar.

It's an ethical leadership class on what is ethical leadership and why are we learning this now.
I love this class. I get to sit and discuss with Junior Marines and hopefully influence them to be the leaders they have the potential to be.

I am sad when they graduate but excited to watch them grow. 

9/11 Memorial Run - Part II

I have birthed two 9/11 Memorial runs since coming to Okinawa. The first was on Camp Foster with 700 participants in its first outing. This year, I was told that it increased to 850 participants. I take comfort in knowing that when I PCS from here, that program will live on.

Since I am not at Futenma, in joint cooperation with SMP, we started a memorial run the night before. With a committee of 7 and with the volunteerism of 125, most of whom ran the event as well, we had 530 people come out and participate.

A shout out to a certain Cpl who came up with the idea that we all run with an index card with five names of people who died in NY, DC or PA. With their names around our necks, we ran with purpose.

Another shout out to a LCpl who went above and beyond by getting the Crash Fire Rescue trucks to stand vigilant over us and the metaphor was not lost on the crowd.

Between the two trucks, we strung up my flag. The symbolism was not lost on me. As the run concluded, everyone was given a chem light and stood in the outline that read 9/11. The pilots flying at the time could see it from above.

Below is my benediction.

Heavenly Father,

As Marines and Sailors, we understand commitment and we have taken the time to honor the heroism of those who died in the Pentagon, New York and Pennsylvania.

We run to pay tribute to them, with their names around our necks, weighed down by their brave acts of defiance in the face of terrorism. Because their names deserve to be remembered.

We run, because we volunteered and promised to defend this country with our lives. And they did just that.

We run, guided by lights because light represents hope. These lights remind us of our responsibility to be the beacon of hope for others.

We stand together, in solidarity with the families who lost loved ones because they were our brothers and sisters too.

We stand and remember each year, because their sacrifices deserve our respect and attention because if it were us, we would want people to remember our names.

As You have taught us, "Chazak V'Ematz" be strong and of good courage.

May our actions demonstrate our commitment to Your teachings.


Most of the incredible SMP team.

CFR standing the watch over us.

At the end of the run, 

Post clean up pancake meal for the volunteers put on by the USO. 

Caring for Your Community

One of the unspoken jobs of chaplains, I believe, is to care for everyone through events and not just through counseling.

I revised my "Single Parent" give away to a "Single Income" give away. 

The 40 volunteers and donations helped 30 families save between $ 150- $ 850 per family. Several of the families were single pregnant Marines.

I am so proud to be a part of a community that truly cares for their own. 

Marines s

Marines sorting and folding children's clothes by size. 

Our altar has multiple uses. The Marines laid out the toy display with care.

Chaplain School Reunion

So I am sent to Okinawa and make new friends and colleagues. I mention chaplain school and the friendships I made. I totally did not expect to have a small reunion with Matt going active duty and joining me here and Jin visiting with his commander.

What a blessing. 

The first week Matt got here, I took him and his wife out for dinner and ice cream. 

Matt, Jin and I at Blue Seal

The Okinawan 'Horah'

I have mentioned before the need for the Air Station to consistently engage in good public relations. It was no surprise then, that when I had the chance, I jumped on the chance to dance the Kachachi in the Ginowan festival.

It's the Okinawan version of the Horah, a dance performed at any celebration.

We had 3 senseis who were old enough to be my grandmothers and they moved with such grace and 

I was even more proud of my 20 Marines who volunteered to learn the dance. It took us 2 weeks but we did well.

The local newspaper ran  a small story about us.

Sgt, me and Cpl

The individual competition. 

Some of the student teams had a theme. 

BZ, Marines!