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
“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