A very merry Christmas to all of you.
Not a lot to say of late, as graduate school has taken up much of my attention and time this fall, and I haven’t blogged much because I feel tired and not especially interesting at the end of each day. Kay and I are healthy in body and spirits, and enjoying our time here in Kitchener-Waterloo. At this time of year my thoughts are especially with those of my friends in the Canadian Armed Forces Chaplaincy who are far from home, especially Padre Rob Parker on HMCS Toronto somewhere far warmer than here, and Padre Kevin Olive in Kabul, Afghanistan. Be well, guys.
Speaking of chaplains, in my spare time this Christmas I am reading a chaplain’s memoirs, always a fascinating genre to me. Israel Yost was a young Lutheran serving a parish in Pennsylvanian when the US entered World War Two, and he soon volunteered to serve. He was assigned to the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which happened to be one of the most famous and decorated US Army units of the war. The 100th Bn was made up primarily of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the Mainland, many of whom had family in the internment camps established after Pearl Harbour. It served in Italy and later in France. Here’s Yost’s account of Christmas, 1943, shortly before the 100th began it’s part in the battle of Monte Cassino, as a small Christmas gift to you.
“During the day some of the medics got together in the chaplain’s tent to practice carols. Others got tin snips and cut tree ornaments out of tin cans from the mess tents: by twisting a long strip with the inside shiny surface exposed, glittering icicles were formed. Two evergreens were decorated with these and sparkling starts and red berries picked locally. One volunteer disappeared for several hours and returned with a wooden cross he had painted white; he planted it in a place of honour in front of one of the trees.
When it got dark, the carollers, after singing first at the officers’ party, made the rounds of all the companies. In front of one tent their singing was drowned out at first by the loud noise of a card game in progress under the canvas. Then a voice sounded from inside the pyramidal (tent). “Shh, you hear that? The chaplain has some men outside singing Christmas carols.” In the silence that followed, “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” rang out.”
It was getting late when the singers reached the last tent. As the final carol died away on the cold winter’s night, the tent flap was flung back and out came a sleepy, half-dressed mess sergeant. “You men ought to have something for your Christmas spirit,” he muttered. He ushered the group into his mess tent and made hot cocoa for everyone.
… On Christmas Day two services were held, attended by 225. I also attended the all-musical worship at the regiment and conducted a Lutheran communion service for the 1st Battalion at the request of the unit’s chaplain. One of the companies invited me to their Christmas dinner: turkey, stuffing, rice, a fresh vegetable, wine, oranges, walnuts, and a freshly baked cake with icing and nuts on top.”
Israel A.S. Yost, Combat Chaplain: The Personal Story of the World War II Chaplain of the Japanese American 100th Battalion, (Honlulu: U of Hawaii Press, 2006), pp. 100-101.
In his memoirs, despite his modesty, Yost emerges as a faithful hard-working pastor who put his men and ministry far ahead of himself. Even though he knew nothing of Hawaii or of Japanese culture when he joined the 100th, he appears to have been a valued member of the unit. He had a long life of ministry and service after the war, and died in 2000 at age 84. Chaplains’ schools do good work in preparing people for military ministry, but books like this one should appear more often on their reading lists.
Blessings to you all this holidays, and in the year to come, may you know God’s peace and presence..