Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

For this Veterans Day I'd like to share an interesting account of the first US Marine burial in Japan, which occurred during Commodore Perry's visit in 1854. The event is actually an account of possibly the first interfaith Christian-Buddhist service of this kind:

"The flags of every vessel in the squadron were hoisted at half mast as the boats pushed off. The body was borne to a very picturesque spot at the foot of a hill, at a short distance from the village of Yoku-hama. The chaplain, Mr. Jones, was robed in his clerical gown, and on landing was received in the most courteous manner by some of the Japanese authorities, who showed none of their supposed repugnance to the Christian religion and its ministers...The place chosen for the burial was near a Japanese place of internment, with stone idols and sculpted headstones, and as the procession came up a Buddhist priest, in robes of richly embroidered silk, was observed already on the ground.

Mr. Jones read the service of the Protestant Episcopal church, and while he was officiating the Buddhist priest sat near by on a mat, with an altar before him, on which was a collection of scraps of paper, some rice, a gong, a vessel containing saki, and some burning incense. The service having been read, the body lowered, and the earth thrown in, the party retired from the grave. The Buddhist priest then commenced the peculiar ceremonies of his religion, beating his gong, telling his rosary of glass and wooden beads, muttering his prayers, and keeping alive the burning incense. He was still going through his strange forumlary when the Americans moved away..."
[Source: History of the Chaplain Corps , Part I, NAVEDTRA 14281]

Especially on this day, but on all days, we should be mindful of those who have gone before us, and who are still volunteering to serve. As chaplains we can also learn much from past examples of interfaith cooperation, and continue our determination to serve.

Chaplain Jones also recorded one of the epitaphs made for a servicemember interred in Japan, and I would like to close with it here, as it is still very much meaningful:

Sleeping on a foreign shore,
Rest, sailor, rest! thy trials o'er;
Thy shipmates leave this token here,
That some, perchance, may drop a tear
For one that braved so long the blast
And served the country to the last.

Namu Amida Butsu

1 comment:

Hank said...

What a beautiful post! I imagine that keeping an inter-faith mindset is always on a chaplains mind, maybe more so for a buddhist chaplain. I've always wondered about this, especially at official functions when a short prayer is given. For every military function I've attended, the prayer has always been a watered-down version of a protestant christian prayer. How is it different when you deliver this service, ma'am?

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