My name is Rocco Blais and I was a prospected Buddhist Chaplain for the Military. I was in the U.S. Army as an Expert Infantryman (11 Bravo) with the 25th Infantry Division Schofield Barracks Hawaii in 1996. Shortly after getting Honorably Discharged, I found myself searching for higher meaning because being an "Expert Killer" would not work outside of the Army. So I attending regular meditation classes at the Providence Zen Center http://www.kwanumzen.com/pzc/ in Cumberland, R.I. I found myself working a few jobs but none requiring the combat skills I achieved in the Army. So I joined the U.S. Navy in 2001 as a Cryptologic Technician (CTO) and found myself back in Hawaii at the KRSOC in Kunia Hawaii.
As I did more searching, I found myself at the Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center http://www.ktlhonolulu.org/ in Honolulu. Continuing in the Navy, I worked at JICPAC Pearl Harbor as an Information Technician (IT) sharping my mind as a full time student at Hawaii Pacific University. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a 3.4 GPA I wanted to pursue further mental development within Buddhism, education, and the Military. So I prepared to submit my packet for the Buddhist Chaplain Program. I conversed with representatives from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force. I wanted to find which Military branch would find more use for the first Buddhist Chaplain. I was able to contact Jeanette Shin who is the first Buddhist Chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve. I was also put in touch with Somya Malasri, who attended the Honolulu Dharma Center, and is a prospected candidate for the U.S. Army Buddhist program (I have lost contact with him but I hope he makes it).
As I searched deeper into the program, I felt that it did not work in my favor. To attend a Theological/Seminary school for a Master of Divinity in Buddhist Studies, there were only two possible colleges. University of the West and University of California at Berkeley were the only choices. Naropa University was my first choice and now they offer an MDiv towards Chaplaincy (after I chanted to them repeadly). With the tuition assistance received from the Military, I felt it would not cover my lifestyle within the program. So I decided I would leave the Military in 2006 to pursue a Master's degree in Education and upon completion of that, I will venture into a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist Pyschology.
Although my plans did change due to personal reasons, I will continue to support Buddhism in the Military. I must admit it would have seemed contradicting to have a former "Grunt" with an Expert Infantry Badge as a Buddhist Chaplain. However, my view remains the same; this previous experience has lead me to the Noble Eightfold path. To know mindfulness, it was feasible for me to know suffering. I am a proud veteran and I still carry the seed as a Buddhist soldier. Following Buddhist philosophy in the military is long over due. I hope that Buddhist doctorine will create a compassionate atmosphere and resolve issues without the use of force.
Om Mani Padme Hum,
~ Rocco Blais