Military and civilian members from around the community gathered at the Ramstein Officers’ Club early in the morning March 13 to celebrate more than 200 years of religious freedom.
The 86th Airlift Wing Chaplain Corps hosted the annual National Prayer Breakfast, where chaplains led the crowd in praying for different domains of society. Military members from the Air Force, Army, Navy and civilians participated.
The tradition of an organized day of prayer began in the 1950s, when members of congress established prayer groups. The event was an opportunity for people of faith to gather and pray together and to remember one of the basic rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution in 1791: the right to practice any religion or no religion at all.
In addition to the opening invocation and the final benediction, the prayer breakfast involved thee other prayers: a prayer for the nation, a prayer for leaders and a prayer for deployed troops.
The keynote speaker for the event was Archbishop P. Broglio, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
Broglio spoke about five virtues each person should possess in order to respond to different situations in life: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, and selflessness.
“If we were to survey the history of our nation and look at the different figures in each period whose response and initiative earned them a niche in the pantheon of our collective memory, we would discover women and men who build on their natural virtues to contribute to the greatness of our nation,” he said.
To illustrate how these five virtues come into play, Broglio shared the story of Joseph Lafleur, a U.S. military chaplain who was captured by Japanese troops during the invasion of the Philippines in World War II.
Lafleur continued to minister to U.S. prisoners of war during his captivity and prevented the captors from using their prisoners to support their war effort.
Soon, he was taken to the prison ship that eventually became his tomb. On Sept. 7, 1944, allied forces misidentified the ship and torpedoed it. Even while faced with imminent death, Lafleur helped some of his fellow prisoners escape. While some of the POWs escaped with their lives, Lafleur lost his own.
“He became a source of strength for his fellow POWs,” Broglio said. “He responded to a situation of crisis in a very positive way. My dear friends — that response to a crisis situation never happens in a vacuum. As you know better than I, the military trains men and women to react to different situations.”
As the military members, along with the rest of the U.S., celebrated their freedom to practice any religion of their choice — or no religion at all, Broglio encouraged them to continue serving their country selflessly and wholeheartedly.