MAAF maintains a roster of Atheists in Foxholes, just in case there are any rumors that we don't exist. The next time you hear someone repeat that old myth, just send them here to see how atheists have served honorably in combat - always have, always will.
Besides the MAAF members below, keep in mind atheists in foxholes whose stories have been in feature stories and documentaries: Pat Tillman, Afghanistan war Army Ranger and football player, Hans Kasten, WWII POW leader, Phil Paulson, Vietnam Veteran and activist, Kurt Vonnegut, WWII POW and author, Ted Williams, WWII Veteran and baseball player, Ernest Hemingway, WWI Vet and author, Sherwin Wine, Founder of Humanistic Judaism
If you are in Washington, DC, you may want to honor Atheists in Foxholes with a visit to Arlington Cemetery. MAAF provides a Cemetery Tour to known gravesites. Also consider visiting the Monument to Atheists in Foxholes in Talladega, AL.
This is not a member list. Member information is strictly confidential unless a member explicitly requests public recognition. If you would like to have your name listed here on this page, Join MAAF for a template and instructions.
The list of Atheists in Foxholes is over 200, starting with the most-recently submitted.
Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Benjamin Garnett
Dates of Service: Apr 2008 to present
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal (1OLC), Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (1OLC), Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon (2nd Award)
In my civilian time, I reside in Louisville, KY. I am an adjunct instructor at the University of Louisville and a volunteer member of Bugles Across America.
Army Staff Sergeant Barry Lisenbee
Dates of Service: Feb 2002 to present
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (2) Army Achievement Medal (3)
Tours of duty: Iraq 2004, Iraq 2005, Iraq 2009, Kuwait 2011, Bahrain 2014
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Shirley Brown
Specialty: Computer, Personnel, Squadron CC
Dates of Service: July 1976-1980 enlisted; Oct 1982-Aug 2002 officer
Decorations: AF Commendation Medal (w/3 devices), Meritorious Service Medal (w/2 devices), NDSM (w/2), AF Long Tour ribbon w/1, AF Short Tour Ribbon, AF Outstanding Unit w/3, AF Organizational Excellence w/2
Tours of duty: Misawa, Japan Mar 77-Aug 1978; Offutt AFB Sep 78-80; Incirlik Turkey 1987-1989; Offutt AFB; Altus OK; Scott AFB; Univ of Akron ROTC Detachment Commander 1999-2002
After retiring from the AF, I studied Graduate Level Sociology at SIUE. Among the various research studies I personally reviewed, there were some that had looked at whether Prayer effected outcomes. All the studies I saw indicted that Praying had no effect, whatsoever, on the outcome for individuals who were recipients of prayers. I personally believe that praying to an imaginary god is an exercise in talking to yourself. If it makes you feel better to talk to yourself, then go for it. My father (a WWII Vet, now deceased), used to say Pray in One hand and "Spit" (cleaned up version) in the other and see which gets full fastest. Pretty much my opinion as well. With respect to experiences regarding religion and the military, when I first arrived at Incirlik, Turkey as a new Personnel Captain, one of my very first assignments (until I got to my permanent section chief job) was as an Investigative officer for a situation in which an Officer had had negative dealings with a Wiccan. So, I diligently studied Wicca, and interviewed as many folks as possible and reported that the Wiccan had been "the victim of religious discrimination." It was subsequently handled appropriately. Other dealings I had with "religious personnel" include lots of dealings with Chaplains, especially as a Squadron Commander. All of the Chaplains with whom I dealt were fair, above board, and more interested in actually helping than in proselytizing their particular religious perspective. In fact, some of the best philosophical discussions I had were with Chaplains, especially after the OK City Bombing. I was on one of the Stress Incident Debriefing teams with a Chaplain when our Security Police members and their service dogs came back from doing recovery operations there. I have nothing but respect for most of the Chaplains with whom I have personally dealt. I am very certain that even as an out and open Atheist, I can deal with the base chaplains in an honest, open, respectful manner.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Douglas Wright
Point of Contact, org of San Diego - MAAF
Specialty: Electronics Technician
Dates of Service: 02 December 1992 - Present
Decorations: Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal (4), Navy Unit Commendation (2), Navy E, Navy Good Conduct Medal (6), National Defense Service Medal (2), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal (2), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (8), Navy/Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon (9)
Tours of duty: USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72), USS VALLEY FORGE (CG-50), NAF ATSUGI AIR OPERATIONS, USS CUSHING (DD-985), USS STETHEM (DDG-63), SRF/JRMC YOKOSUKA, USS RENTZ (FFG-46), SPAWAR SAN DIEGO.
I was raised primarily in the Baptist church. Though my father was an atheist, my mother was a staunch believer and I never doubted that I was saved and was going to Heaven. Sunday school was mandatory and, ironically, it was there that the first seeds of doubt were sown in my mind. I had always been an avid reader and tore through science books constantly, which prompted some uncomfortable questions from me to my teachers. Of course, the answers were vague and even I could tell at that early age that something was not adding up. Around the time I joined the Navy I had realized that Christianity was no longer fulfilling to me and I began to poke around at other religions to try to fill the void. I still thought that faith was necessary for moral guidance, so I dabbled in Islam and took an interest in Buddhism for a short time. Slowly I began to see the recurring patterns of religion and realized that, while all religions could not be right, they could all be wrong. Eventually I reluctantly embraced the harsh conclusion that it was unlikely that God existed, but it eviscerated my faith and left me unsatisfied. It was in my mid-thirties that I stumbled upon Humanism. It proved to be the missing piece that changed my outlook on life and provided a solid base for my ethical worldview. Since that day I have never looked back. I am a currently a Humanist Lay Leader with the American Humanist Association and MAAF. Currently I am focused on both getting the Navy at large to accept and support Humanism and connecting with other atheist organizations in the San Diego area. If there is anything the Navy has taught me, it is that nothing can stop a determined force with a common goal forever.
Marine Lance Corporal Francisco Irizarry Gutierrez
Dates of Service: Sep 2005-Jan 2011
Decorations: Purple heart, Combat action Ribbon ( 2nd Iraq 2006-2007, Iraq 2008, Afghanistan 2009)
My atheism began as anger towards the catholic god. The questions I had were never really answered. The answers were inadequate and preposterous. I continued to ask questions and science provided an answer. Anger turned into curiosity which in turn turned into atheism. Raised in a catholic Hispanic family, well you could imagine what it was like to come out as an atheist. The more I discover about science, the more passionate I become.
Air Force Master Sergeant Stephen Holdenried
Point of Contact
Specialty: Manpower Analyst
Dates of Service: 6 Mar 1996 - Present
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal (2), Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal (3), Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (5), Air Force Good Conduct (6), National Defense Medal, Iraqi Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Medal
Tours of duty: Operation Joint Forge & Operation Allied Force, San-Vito, Italy, Dec 1998 - Apr 1999; Operation Southern Watch, Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia, Dec 2000 - Mar 2001; Operation Enduring Freedom, Sheik Isa AB, Bahrain, Mar 2002 - Jun 2002; Operation Iraqi Freedom, LSA Anaconda/Balad AB, Mar 2005 - Sep 2005
I was raised catholic, but my family was more "Holiday" Catholics than the every Sunday types. I never felt a need to pray to Jesus or the Virgin Mary. I had always thought, why pray to Jesus, when I could just pray to God? Cut out the middle man right? I mainly played along, did what I was told, and tried not to make waves in my family. Being a middle child, I learned to do my best to stay out of trouble. After my wife and I left the States to live in Germany, we stopped going to services. When I was deployed to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and then Iraq, I had a lot of time to do some thinking, and I realized that I had control of my fate, no one else. It wasn't until two years ago that I finally decided to stop pretending around other people and just come out. I gradually told a couple of friends and now, most, if not all of my family knows. I feel very liberated in knowing that I no longer need to pretend. I call myself an Atheist, but I realize that it too is just a label. I only use it to differentiate myself from theists. In Aug 2013 I volunteered as a Camp Quest Texas counselor, and it opened my eyes to the awesome people that have similar understanding of the world around us. I found individuals that have a passion to make a difference in the world, and that is exactly what I want to do. I want to work hard as a wingman to all atheists in the Air Force, whether they are brand new trainees or honorable retirees. Currently I maintain a Facebook page called Atheist Airman, which is linked to a Twitter account @AtheistAirman, and an Air Force Portal group with 185 members and counting. The Air Force Portal group is the only one of its kind, connecting military, civilian, and contractor non-theists, across the entire Air Force, to discuss issues pertaining to being an non-believer in an overwhelming theist population.
Army Staff Sergeant Grace Greer
Specialty: Drill Sergeant
Dates of Service: July 2002 - present
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal 2, Army Good Conduct Medal 3, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Star 2, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon 3, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon 3, Drill Sergeant Identification Badge
Tours of duty: Iraq Dec 2007-March 2009, Haiti Jan 2010-June 2010
My journey as a Foxhole Atheist has not been an easy one. I didn't always even identify myself as an Atheist because I didn't want to be bombarded with the word of god nor was I prepared to explain it. I had a profound moment in WLC when the welfare of my 1059 (graduation certificate) was held over my head during a graduation practice. We were going over all of the key movements we would make in unison, stand up, sit down, let us pray. I stayed at the position of attention, it caused the SGLs to question me and then insist that I crossed my arms in front of me and bowed my head just for "uniformity purposes". Being young, uneducated and not fully prepared to defend my case I caved in for graduation practice. For the actual ceremony I stood tall and did not bow my head. I rightfully completed the course and earned that 1059. Now, I am at Joint Base Lewis McChord and looking to create an alternative to the frequent prayer breakfasts and chaplain activities. I would like to find other Foxhole Atheists to assist in the mentoring and education of the future leaders of our military. (excerpts taken from Featured Foxhole Atheist site (see "personal site" link above)
Army National Guard Specialist Tyshon Bullock
Specialty: Calvary Scout
Dates of Service: May 19th, 2008 - current
Tours of duty: Operation Enduring Freedom 12-13
If you can't give a invocation or benediction without mentioning god/gods, father and son, etc., than prayer should be exclusive to those who want to receive it. I find it very offensive to be told to show respect and just bow my head. I am glad I discovered this website and I am glad to see so many others who share a common view. I am tired of biting my tongue out of fear of being reprimanded.
Navy Lieutenant Ryan Andrews
Specialty: Surface Warfare
Dates of Service: 1999-2005, 2009-Present
Decorations: Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3 awards), Good Conduct Medal
Tours of duty: USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) 2001-2005, USS DECATUR (DDG 73) 2009-2012, COMDESRON 40 2012-Present
I have no issues or complaints with people praying or practicing religion, be it peacetime or wartime. I have noticed lots of abrasiveness when simply not participating, or answering honestly when asked about god. So I joined this site to prove that you can be a good person with good morals without a religious aspect, and to let others know that they're not alone. I don't seek out conflict with people of faith, but I won't shy away from it either.
Air Force Tech Sergeant Brett Copeland
Point of Contact
Specialty: Cyber Security
Dates of Service: December 1999-present
Decorations: Air Force Commendation Medal (2), Air Force Achievement Medal (2), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Outstanding Unit w/ Valor, Small Arms Expert (Rifle)
Tours of duty: Kyrgyzstan (Jan-Mar 2002), Al Udeid (Jan-Jul 2003), Camp Lemonnier Djibouti (Present)
Air Force Major Nathan Van De Veer
Specialty: E-4B Navigator
Dates of Service: Feb 2003 to the present
Decorations: Air Medal (7), AF Commendation Medal (3), AF Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (2), Iraq Campaign Medal (2), Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, AF Expeditionary Service Ribbon w/Gold Border (4)
Tours of duty: May-Jul 05 Bagram (OEF), Mar-Jun 06 Ali Al Salem AB (ISO OIF), Jul-Nov 07 Bagram (OEF), Dec 09-Mar 10 Al Udeid AB (ISO OIF/OEF), Jul-Oct 10 Al Udeid AB (ISO OND/OEF), Dec 11-Feb 12 Korea
Army Captain Jeff Frisby
Specialty: Info Systems
Dates of Service: October 2006 - Present
Decorations: Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Ribbon, Army Commendation Ribbon, Army Achievement Ribbon (2), Iraqi Campaign Ribbon
Tours of duty: Iraq: January 2010 - June 2010. Afghanistan: April 2013 - January 2014
Army Sergeant 1st Class Andrew Smith
Specialty: Combat Photographer (MOS 25V)
Dates of Service: 1995- present
Decorations: Joint Service Commendation x2, Combat Action Badge, Paratrooper
Tours of duty: Albania (1999), Kosovo 2001-2002), Djibouti ISO OEF (2002-2003), Afghanistan OEF (2009-2010)
I am a strong advocate for the secular interpretation of our First Amendment. I am not interested in trying to persuade folks to forsake their religious beliefs. I only desire a "level playing field" within our military when it comes to religion. I believe that our military is currently doing it wrong regarding its obligation to respect its service members' religious and non-religious beliefs equally. I am frustrated by too many of our service member's unwillingness to acknowledge the difference between individual religious rights and the establishment or preference of a religion on behalf of our military (read: government). While I think that prayer and religion are silly, I am not upset by prayer in combat or anyone's right to exercise their religious beliefs LEGALLY. I am an atheist no matter where I am, and I am grateful for the opportunity to network and advocate with other like-minded folks here.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Stangle
Dates of Service: Aug 09 - present
Decorations: Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with EGA device), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: Afghanistan Sep 11 - Apr 12
Army Master Sergeant Chad Brack
Specialty: Special Forces Operations Sergeant
Dates of Service: August 2003 - present
Decorations: Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal (2nd Award), Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (2nd Award), Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (3rd Award), National Defense Service Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (4 Service Stars), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 3), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon (Numeral 2), NATO Non-Article 5 Medal for ISAF, Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Award, Expert Marksmanship Badge, Gold Schuetzenschnur, Senior Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Special Forces Tab
Tours of duty: Afghanistan 2006-07, Afghanistan 2007-08, Afghanistan 2010, Afghanistan 2011
There are many atheists in foxholes and I'm proof that being thrust into regular periods of extended combat does nothing to change a true non-theist's beliefs. Recent overtly Christian prayers at change of command ceremonies, award ceremonies, and graduation ceremonies have caused me to step back and ask questions about how the Army can justify incorporating religious belief or tradition into its daily activities when our country is supposed to have a clear separation of church and state. Every time I'm asked to bow my head I'm reminded of religious officers in Afghanistan who require their soldiers to participate in daily Islamic ceremony. Sometimes I wonder how different we truly are. Many claim that the majority of Soldiers, at least in my unit, are Christian and that the ceremonial prayers are harmless. Most if not all, however, would be up in arms if a Muslim or Jewish Chaplain stood in a Christian's place. The majority of theists I've come across simply have never thought about the issue. It is my goal to help my fellow Soldiers realize the hypocrisy of their attitude toward incorporating religion into ceremony within the Army while doing everything I can to make our non-theist voices count as equal to those who choose to represent imaginary gods.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Johnathan Napier
Specialty: Airborne Linguist
Dates of Service: 13 Sep 2005 to 21 Aug 2011
Decorations: Air Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Unit Award with 3 oak leaf clusters, AF Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 1 service star, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, AF Overseas Ribbon Short, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border with 1 oak leaf cluster, AF Longevity Service, USAF NCO PME Graduate Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (Rifle), AF Training Ribbon.
Tours of duty: 12-JUN-2009 to 24-OCT-2009 Al Udeid Air Base Qatar, 11-MAR-2010 to 22-SEP-2010 Al Udeid Air Base Qatar
I recall how overly Christian everything was. Commanders would always pray over missions, thanksgiving dinners, national holidays, Christmas, etc. They could never be openly advocating Christianity though, so they would try and use a work-around. They would say at the end of the prayer, "in your name we pray." But I always confused as to how that was a work-around. Muslims say "praise be to Allah." I never heard anyone say "praise be to his name." So when you say "in your name we pray," it's kind of obvious who you are talking about. I also remember going through basic training and being given the option of "going to church" or "cleaning." That's not a real option. Of course everyone chooses church. The most common intolerance I got was when I would order dog-tags. For religious preference I would select "Atheist." But the clerks would give me this dirty look and ask if I wanted "No Preference" instead, as if it was shameful to have Atheist on dog-tags. I would also get the stand-alone basic ignorance questions when someone would find out I was an Atheist. Frankly, I was quite annoyed at how positively I could be viewed as a soldier, but so negatively as an Atheist
Army Specialist Christian Gorke
Dates of Service: March 2009-present
Decorations: parachutist badge, expert infantry badge
Tours of duty: Haiti (p-au-p) Jan-Apr 2010; Iraq (Taji, khalid, Al asad) May-Dec 2011
As for my thoughts on prayer in combat, people seem to live under the false impression that all atheists fear death and therefore in combat there is a need for religion or God(s) that can assist you in those desperate times so you can gather the courage necessary to get up and react. I actually find this counter-intuitive, to my own experience at the very least, when I was stabbed in a riot my immediate thoughts weren't "oh god I'm getting stabbed, I immediately regret not believing and I sure do hope there's a cushy afterlife waiting for me," nor were my thoughts "oh I need to react," I simply fought back with literally nothing on my mind. Looking back it would be cool to say my life flashed before my eyes during my bleeding and I contemplated my life decisions, but that would be false, it was primal reaction mixed with adrenaline. When I'm getting shot at, I take cover and fire back to get fire superiority. My focus is on the fight. As for the fear of death, that could not be farther from the truth. I embrace my mortality. As Richard Dawkins eloquently put, "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones." Death may be an everlasting blackness waiting, but my focus is and always has been gratefulness for being a part of this crazy show that is life. If I die in combat or in my sleep, I'd have died knowing I was immensely gifted to be here and to share this world with my daughter.
Army Master Sergeant Michael Hammond
Specialty: Military Police
Dates of Service: August 1988-Present
Decorations: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (5OLC), Army Achievement Medal (6OLC), Army Superior Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal (6), National Defense Service Medal (2), Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with 3 Campaign Stars, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (3), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Saudi Arabia Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwaiti Kuwait Liberation Medal, NATO Medal, Parachutist Badge, and the Air Assault Badge
Tours of duty: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait), December 1990 - March 1991 Operation Restore Hope (Mogadishu, Somalia), September 1993 - March 1994 Operation Joint Endeavor (Camp Bedrock,Bosnia-Herzogovina) March - August 1998 Operation Iraqi Freedom 08-09, (Baghdad and Taji, Iraq) September 08 - September 09 Operation Enduring Freedom 12-13, (Camp Nathan Smith, Afghanistan) May 12 - Present
I've held off actively participating in MAAF because I haven't felt the need to belong to anything--just wanted to show that we exist, you know? Now, however, being "strongly encouraged" as a leader to attend yet another prayer breakfast has pushed me past the point of tolerance. I've always thought it was weird to see people who get excited about chasing skirts and thumping heads bowing solemnly as the chaplain prays before we do something dangerous. I've never been able to reconcile what I've personally observed in this world with the idea that there's some all powerful being that gives a shit about anything that happens on this "pale blue dot". Before this latest annoyance it was the spiritual fitness questions on the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Tracker Global Assessment Tool. There's no acknowledgement of the fact that a person can be okay without having to believe in a higher power and since I don't believe (no amount of verbal judo can convince me that being "spiritual" is not the same as being religious) I always score poorly and end up with a higher risk factor. Personally, I feel that the realization that this is my one and only life leaves me with all the incentive I need to treat other people decently, take care of my family for the time that I am here, and leave them with the means to take care of themselves when I'm gone
Army Major David Schrier
Dates of Service: June 2003 - October 2009
Tours of duty: 28th Combat Support Hospital, Baghdad, August 2006 - February 2007
I spent six months in a combat support hospital. We took care of wounded civilians, insurgents, and military. Our hospital was mortared regularly, and praying about random explosions just seemed ridiculous. The individual people in the unit were mostly accepting of, or apathetic about, my atheism. However, there was a lot of overt religious emphasis from the unit command. The hospital chaplain, in particular, was naive to the concepts of religious diversity and freedom. He turned several mandatory "briefings" into a platform for proselytizing and preaching. He even tried to convert or preach to wounded patients, including locals and their families; these attempts were sadly comical, as they were overwhelmingly Muslim and almost never spoke English. My time in the Army, and in Iraq, served to cement my convictions about the folly of using religious dogma as guidance for personal policy and actions, and the high chance that religious doctrines can be volatile when placed in opposition to each other.
Marine Sergeant Adam Dunigan
Dates of Service: Apr 1, 2008 - present
Decorations: Naval Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, others
Tours of duty: Pacific Fleet UDP 2009-2010, OEF Afghanistan 2010-2011
I think the most egregious offense that religion perpetrates in the military is that it asserts itself (and is thus treated) as an integral part of military life. When I first entered basic training and we were given time off contingent on attending religious service, I was shocked. By allowing religious organizations to insert themselves into military life (i.e. deployment, bootcamp, etc.), the government is opening vulnerable youth to coercive faith practices. I want the men and women around me to know there is another choice.
Air National Guard Tech Sergeant Andrew Leith
Dates of Service: 27Jan95-present
I am a sport skydiver and I was actually asked if I pray before I jump. My response was no, I am too busy thinking about my skydive and what I need to do to make it successful. There is no place for praying. The same can be said of combat or any high stress environment.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Stenkamp
Specialty: Cryptological Technician Maintenance
Dates of Service: 15 Dec 2008 - present
Decorations: Good Conduct, Expeditionary, Sea Service, Global War on Terrorism, National Defense, Sharpshooter Small Arms
Tours of duty: 10th Cyber Fleet, 7th Fleet, 5th Fleet April 2010 - present
Army Sergeant Kevin Dare
Dates of Service: 28 Mar 2007 to present
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Combat Medic Badge
Tours of duty: Iraq, Dec 2007 to Feb 2009 and Jul 2010 to Jun 2011
I do remember when my recruiter asked me which religion I was and I strongly emphasized "NONE!!" and I ended up with "no pref recorded". At the time I didn't know any better. The only thing I've ever encountered when I told people that I was Agnostic or had no religion was when a fellow medic, a devout Jew, asked if I worshipped Satan. I only replied with, "I just told you I don't worship any gods, so why would I worship that one?" I've never been called out for not bowing my head during any invocation during any official ceremony. The only time I've felt uncomfortable was when I reenlisted in '10, and I didn't tell my physician's assistant, whom I choose as my reenlistment officer, that I didn't want to "swear", so I'm sure everyone noticed me choking on the religious words. I fortunately haven't felt much descrimination for my lack of belief. When asked if I believe in a god, I say, "I don't know," which is the Agnostic, "and, I don't care" which is all me. I don't need a religion or a god for me to be a decent person.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Yockachonis
Specialty: Aviation Safety Equipment
Dates of Service: May 1986 - May 1990
Decorations: Good Conduct Medal
Tours of duty: VR-60 Squadron, 1987 - 1990
I had no problems with religion being pushed on me, excepting boot camp, where church attendance was compulsory. I was not openly atheist, and did not identify as atheist until years later, but I did not believe. It was something we never talked about, and I didn't give it much thought, but I thought of heaven, hell and god as ridiculous constructs of men, not to be taken seriously.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Nathan Meier
Specialty: Finance and Accounting
Dates of Service: 1998 - Present
Decorations: Air Force Achievement Medal, AF Good Conduct Medal (x4), National Defense Service Medal, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border
Tours of duty: 1998 - 2002 Ramstien AFB Germany, 2002 - 2005 Little Rock AFB AR, 2005 - 2009 Misawa AB Japan, Jan 2009 - Jun 2009 Ali Al Salem Kuwait, 2009 - Present Vance AFB OK
I was a Christian when I joined and subsequently became a Chapel rope during Tech School. I stood up for the unpopular Wiccans at the time who had a Chapel Rope of their own which I thought was really great. Later after studying more about alternative religions I fell into the "No Religious Preference" crowd. In my search for religion and a way to describe my beliefs I found no religion. Now I am proud of my secular beliefs and made sure to update all of my records so that they reflect that in the best way possible. I have not had any problems though I know the more active I get in the community to try and educate the public on Secular beliefs I will encounter some.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Derek Traywick
Specialty: Cyber Systems (Computers)
Dates of Service: July 2003 - Present
Decorations: Joint Service Commendation, Air Force Commendation, Air Force Achievement, Good Conduct, National Defense Service, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service, Korean Defense Service, AF Overseas Ribbon Short and Long, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border, AF Longevity Service
Tours of duty: Ali Base Iraq 2006, Baghdad 2007, Other Iraqi locations 2008, 2010; Kabul 2012
My experience with religion in the military has been nothing but positive. I've been able to have discussions about various religious ideas with many other military members. My beliefs have always been respected by the military religious community (to include chaplains). It saddens me to hear that this is not the normal way we atheists are treated. I have spent most of my time deployed with SOF units and have seen first hand that there are a lot of us in foxholes out here!
Navy Ensign Aaron Gaither
Specialty: Aviation Maintenance Officer
Dates of Service: May 1998 - Present
Decorations: Navy Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (Five Awards), Meritorius Unit Commendation, Navy Battle "E" (Five Awards), Navy Good Conduct (Four Awards), National Defense Service, Armed Forces Expeditionary (Two Awards), Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary, Global War on Terrorism Service, Humanitarian Service, Sea Service Deployment (Five Awards), Overseas Service (Four Awards), Recruiting Ribbon, Navy Pistol
Tours of duty: Many tours with many dates
As a person who strives to see our government adhere to the Constitution, I am bound by that passion to pursue the separation of church and state, in this case, the separation of the military and religious affiliated activities. The evening prayer onboard ships and the invocation and benediction that I must listen to at ceremonies are obvious breeches of the Constitution and are seen by many as a way for a command or activity to show support for religion. As a scientist and a realist, I am also bound by a moral obligation to stand up for what I know to be true. I have spent more time studying the Bible and other religious scripture than most people who consider themselves "religious". I have come to the common sense conclusion that is is just not factual. The case against the Intelligent Design theory is building everyday as we uncover new evidence of our evolution and it is becoming more increasingly difficult for theologians to support their claims. If I can be a small part in helping someone open their eyes to the truth, then I will be satisfied. In the 1700s, Thomas Paine put it best (substiute the word Christian with any other religion): "The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing"
Marine Sergeant Steve Dixon
Specialty: Aviation Electrician
Dates of Service: 1975 - 1979
Decorations: Good Conduct Medal
Tours of duty: June 1975 - June 1979, VMFA-251
I do not recall being forced to attend any kind of religious service (except in boot camp, but that ceased nearer to graduation), we were pretty much left alone. As for dog tags, I seem to recall a no preference choice, but cannot remember. My dog tags have long since disappeared in the numerous job related moves our family has made over the years, so cannot confirm. Why a religious choice is necessary for a dog tag is beyond me. Should it come to it, the family can take of any religious matters, if any.
Air National Guard Captain Howard Grantham
Specialty: Registered Nurse
Dates of Service: 1996-2000 United States Marine Corps; 2001-Present California Air National Guard/United States Air Force
Decorations: Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (Rifle and Pistol), Marine Corps Expert Rifle Badge (2nd award)
Tours of duty: 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit June-December 1999
I have encountered subtle and not-so-subtle pressure regarding religious belief from time to time. While it has not often been an issue for day-to-day service, religious influence and privilege are pervasive, both in the active and reserve forces. I have noticed, however, that more of my comrades are keeping their heads up during prayer services disguised as formations (the only way to know this being to keep your own head up!). As an officer nearing the end of my twenty years, I have developed more confidence speaking out against religious statements phrased as policy. I have also been more outspoken regarding the excess of political conservatism in the service, which seems to go hand in hand with religious extremism. Military personnel, and junior personnel specifically, are more likely to be pressured to conform, so it is imperative that those of us who have been around a while exercise leadership in promoting the secular values our country and military were founded on.
Army National Guard Sergeant Donald Ferguson
Dates of Service: 1998 to present
Decorations: Purple Heart, Iraq Campaign Medal, Army Commendation (2 awards), Army Achievement (3 awards), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, Reserve Components Achievement Medal (6 awards), National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary, Global War on Terror Service, Utah National Guard Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (Mobilized), Combat Action Badge
Tours of duty: Baghdad Iraq 2003-2004, Tallil Iraq 2005-2006
I was raised as a Mormon in Utah. Everyone around me, neighbors, friends, family, extended family were all Mormons too. I believed because I never had a reason to question things. At the age of 19 I served a two-year proselytizing mission for the church. I joined the Army at the age of 25, by that point I had begun to question some things about the church, but I still considered myself a Mormon and still attended services all through basic training and AIT. Once back home and drilling with my unit, I met a few soldiers who were not Mormons or liberal Mormons, or ex-Mormons, those guys working alongside believing Mormons led to many, many interesting discussions where more and more I belonged on the side of rational skepticism. It was 1999 or 2000 and Carl Sagan's book Demon Haunted World made me realize I could no longer believe the irrational. I quit going to church and no longer considered myself a Mormon, but it was 2008 and the church's involvement in California's Proposition 8 that made me decide I could no longer tolerate any affiliation with the organization, so I formally requested my name be removed from the church roster. At that point I was refused new dog tags to update the religion block with 'atheist' or 'humanist' so I just had my own made online. One says 'atheist' the other says 'secularhumanist' (had to make it all one word, but it fit). Like many here I have stood quietly through invocations at formal ceremonies or dinners, and through prayers for strength and safety before combat operations.
Navy Reserve Petty Officer 3rd Class William Chambers
Dates of Service: 2007 - present
Tours of duty: 2008 - 2009 Iraq
I haven't had a big problem with this really. I wasn't yet open about my beliefs or certain yet at that point in time. It has not been a quick process. You know undoing 30 years of upbringing and life experience, but I believe it is right. And about prayer in combat? whatever keeps you sane. I might utter some words if i were scared to death or something, I dunno I might not. You would certainly be able to think more clearly in a critical situation though if you didn't have to think about what time it was and whether you missed your prayer. whether you slipped up and said a curse word you could use all your mental effort to find a way to complete your mission and/or survive the situation. sometimes that little bit helps. it also doesn't help if you are blinded by thinking that god is going to miraculously abracadabra your butt out of a bind either. Because it will not happen. you will die. I will say this though about religious tolerance, the first friend I made after bootcamp was a girl who was born and raised muslim and still is muslim. her husband is an active duty marine. I later deployed with her and went to "A" school (job training) with her as well. She is a great friend. Some people might think .."oh no a muslim"... but they would be ignorant.
Army Major Domingos Robinson
Specialty: Army Band Officer
Dates of Service: August 1998 - Present
I've been an agnostic most of my life and an atheist for almost half my life. I've never encountered any problems being an atheist in the military, and even have a good friend who is a chaplain (and he knows I'm an atheist). But, the overt religiousness of the military does get old sometimes. The strangest thing was having a chaplain provide support to my change of command ceremonies, knowing that not only did the other people participating in the ceremony expect a chaplain, so did everyone attending. I wonder how it looked for me to stand up there with my head high, eyes forward during the invocation...
Air Force Airman 1st Class Patrick Madden
Specialty: Fuels Distribution
Dates of Service: 15 May 2009 - Present
Decorations: Air Force Overseas Ribbon Short, Global War on Terrorism Expiditionary Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: Ali Al Salem Kuwait Operation New Dawn Jun 2010, Aviano Italy Operation Odyssey Dawn May 2010-Mar 2011
I do not believe in a god and I have served my country without a god. I won't fall to my knees and pray in combat when I could do something more productive with my time like reload, use the radio, or perform Buddy Care. I think if people want to pray in the Military then they should do it at the Chapel or in their home with their family.
Air Force 1st Lieutenant Madison Scaccia
Point of Contact
Dates of Service: Aug 2011 - present
I used to be afraid of my atheism. As a child, I tried so hard to believe. I did the youth groups, the Bible study, all of that. It never clicked. It never made sense to me. Everyone tells you to work hard and to push yourself, but then, at the end of it, you're supposed to thank god? What gives? In high school, I asked myself: honestly, do I believe this stuff? When I realized the answer was a resounding "no", I finally decided enough was enough, and that I wasn't going to buy into it anymore. I'm fine with religion for the most part. If someone wants to live their life based on a theistic doctrine, that's fine by me. What really gets me is the fact that every military event I attend begins with an "invocation", meaning "prayer". I was given the opportunity to give an invocation at an ROTC event a few years ago, and not once did I reference a god. It IS possible to remind your fellow service members to think about their deployed buddies, to keep their families in your thoughts, to remember the ones you lost without going through a deity first. I do admit that this specific tradition is part of the military culture, and not something I want to speak out against at the risk of putting personal beliefs before the mission. However, when it all hits the fan, I'll be depending on the airman next to me, not god. If you've got my back, I don't really care WHAT you believe. My dog tags say "Atheist" and it's not something I'm PROUD of; it just IS.
Army National Guard Sergeant 1st Class Casey Braden
Dates of Service: June 1999 - Present
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal (x3), Army Achievement Medal (x3), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (x3), National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device
Tours of duty: Operation Noble Eagle October 2003-June 2005, Operation Enduring Freedom July 2011-2012
I recently had someone learn that I was an atheist and say, "But you are one of the nicest, happiest people I know! That doesn't make any sense!" I aim to change people's opinions about what it means to be an atheist, and to show that you don't need belief in some supernatural being to be a good person. I also think that the military needs to realize that not everyone in their ranks is a Christian, and that Chaplain-led Christian prayers in formation are grossly inappropriate. It seems that our Chaplain believes that if he prefaces every prayer with "I invite you to pray in your faith tradition as I pray in mine," it makes it all okay.
Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Cody Heaps
Dates of Service: January 1991 - Present
Decorations: Bronze Star Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2nd award), Combat Action Ribbon
Tours of duty: 2011 - Pres 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, CA, 2011 3D Marine Logistics Group Okinawa Japan, 2008-2011 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Okinawa Japan, 2007-2008 MNSTC-I Baghdad Iraq, 2006-2007 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Okinawa Japan, 2005-2006 6TH Marine Regiment Camp Lejeune NC, 2004-2005 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (OIF2-1, 2-2, 3-1), 2002-2003 2nd Intelligence Battalion (OIF), 2001-2002 Joint Military Intelligence College Washington DC, 2000-2001 Navy & Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center Dam Neck VA, 1998-1999 HMM-266 (24th MEU) New River Air Station NC, 1996-1997 6TH Marine Regiment Camp Lejeune NC, 1996 JAC Molesworth England, 1995-1996 6TH Marine Regiment Camp Lejeune NC, 1994-1995 JTF-160 Cuba, 1994-1995 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines Camp Lejeune NC, 1993 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines Camp Lejeune NC, 1991-1992 B Co Marine Barracks Philippines, 1991 MCRD, MCT & SOI Rifleman San Diego and Camp Pendleton CA
I started rejecting the theists' claims in summer 2009 while serving as an elder in the 7th Day Adventist Church. After 40+ years of faithful Christian service in two fundamental faiths, Latter-Day Saints (Missionary & Temple Worker) and 7th Day Adventist, I accepted the position that God is a myth and religions are a scam, based on exhaustive study in comparative religions and everything associated with the "New Atheist" Movement. Bottom Line: God never revealed himself to me so I had no reason to continue the delusion. I actually care if my beliefs are true and nothing infuriates me more than a theist who lacks the courage to be intellectually honest. So far, I have had a chaplain and former pastor admit, after hours of intense discussion, that they don't know if God exists either. Outside of a few faith-heads, most Marines I talk with are ambivalent, especially younger ones, towards the nature and existence of God. I hold no honor for anyone who 'lies for the Lord' so most chaplains just look sheepish and cowardly after they discover my secular, atheist position. So far, no worries but hell at this point in my career, take your best shot - I am ready!
Air Force Tech Sergeant Kenneth Labelle
Specialty: Chinese Linguist
Dates of Service: 2 Jan 2002 - Present
Decorations: Joint Commendation Medal (one oak leaf cluster), Air Force Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: Jan 2002 - Feb 2002, Basic Training, Lackland AFB; Feb 2002 - June 2003, Presidio of Monterey, CA; June 2003-June 2005, Beale AFB, CA; June 2005 - June 2008, Misawa AB, Japan; June 2008 - Present, Goodfellow AFB, TX. 2 deployments to Baghdad, Iraq - July 2006-January 2007, March 2010-September 2010
With regards to hazardous duty, as mentioned in my tours above, I've been deployed to Iraq twice as an analyst. 2006 was definitely more hairy, but I honestly had a harder time the 2nd time around in 2010. More political stresses than combat, it seemed. As to prayer in combat, as long as its done privately and doesn't hamper accomplishment of the mission, I have no problem with it. But the military doesn't seem to see it that way, particularly the private side of it. My biggest issue currently is the tendency of the military to trot out a chaplain at every major event - be it a commanders call, change of command ceremony, drill competition, etc - and have them ask everyone to bow their heads and pray to "the Lord", apparently meaning Jesus. It's bad enough being an atheist and having to hear that (not that I bow my head, I usually spend the prayer looking around to see how many other non-praying people I can spot), but I can't imagine how offensive it must be to people there who may privately worship other things. It does not fit with the party line in the military that we support freedom of religion and/or religious tolerance. Its official endorsement of Christianity, as far as I'm concerned.
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Christine Legawiec
Specialty: C-130 Pilot
Dates of Service: 1996-present
Decorations: Aerial Achievement, Meritorious Service, GWOT Service
Tours of duty: Kuwait, 2000; Balkans, 2000-2005; OEF, 2001-2005; OIF, 2003-2004, ONE, 2008
No atheists in foxholes? Really? So when things get tough I'm supposed to forget my training, put away my courage and just pray? No way. I have to count on me, on my crew, and on my fellow service members to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Our lives depend on it. If you stop performing the mission to pray, you are putting all of us at risk.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Carrier
Specialty: Sonar Technician
Dates of Service: September 1990 to August 1992
Decorations: (1) National Defense Service Medal, (2) USCG Marksman Ribbon
Tours of duty: Training Center Cape May (New Jersey), Security Clearances Division (1990); Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Training Center Pacific (FLEASWTRACENPAC) San Diego (California) (1990-2991); USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720) Pacific Northwest Patrol (1991-1992)
Certainly when I was in service the Coast Guard had a strong contingent of liberals and progressives in all ranks devoted to its peacetime law enforcement and search and rescue mission, and in result the entire force was professionally secular in all active components and very accommodating of diverse religious views in private affairs. Pretty much the way the rest of the services should be.
Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Louis Goldstein
Specialty: Combat Engr
Dates of Service: Nov2002-current
Decorations: Bronze Star, Purple Heart x2, Army Commendation Medal x2 1w "V" for Valor, Army Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: 20 Aug 2010 - 20 Aug 2011
Marine Sergeant Joshua Greenfield
Specialty: Combat Camera
Dates of Service: April 2004 - April 2012
Decorations: (1) Afghanistan Campaign Medal, (1) Iraq Campaign Medal, (1) Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, (2) Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, (1) National Defense Service Medal, (1) NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan, (1) Navy and Marine Corps Achievment Medal, (3) Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
Tours of duty: Iraq: Feb 2005 - Feb 2006. Afghanistan: April 2009 - April 2010, March 2011 - Present
Being a Marine and an atheist is an interesting challenge. The three pillars that the Corps values are founded on are "God, Country, and Corps." I can honestly say that I've never been discriminated against personally, but that's only because I generally don't make my atheism public. But I will definitely speak up when I hear a fellow Marine spouting ignorant religious dogma. Most of them don't even know why they're religious in the first place! That being said, it sometimes feels like I'm the only one. I know that's not true at all, which is why I joined this group, to meet other atheists in the military. There's one thing I know for certain, that if it wasn't for religion, I wouldn't be stuck in this hell hole of a country fighting an invisible enemy. Atheists as a whole need to be more assertive, with respect, to help people see the folly of their archaic beliefs. I know it's not easy, but I'm in it for the long haul. Let's get organized and let others know we're here!
Air Force Staff Sergeant Brandon Crilley
Specialty: Avionics Tech
Dates of Service: 17 June, 2003 to present
Tours of duty: MacDill AFB 2004 to 2011, Dover AFB 2011 to present
I am proud to serve a country that allows us the freedom to criticize ideas, even when they are held by the majority. I am proud to serve a country whose founding fathers understood the importance of separating religion from government. I am proud to serve a country that allows the free exchange of knowledge and wisdom, even if damaging to long standing institutions. I am a Atheist proudly serving America.
Army Captain Jason Torpy
Personal Site, Personal Video
Dates of Service: Jun 1994 - Mar 2005
Decorations: National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Parachutist Badge, German Leistungs Ab Zeichung
Tours of duty: Operation Iraqi Freedom May 2003 - July 2004
From my earliest days in the military, religion, and Christianity specifically were prevalent, creating the implication that I, as an atheist, was not a full part of the team. I hope the military embraces the diversity of its ranks creating training, outreach, and support programs for nontheists that are equivalent to those of the privileged Chrsitian community.
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Larry Bucher
Dates of Service: 1952-56, 1958-77
Decorations: Two Navy Achievement Medals and about eight geographical medals
Tours of duty: 1952-53 boot camp and a service school. 1953-54 USS Iowa. 1954-55 Naples Italy. 1955-56 London England. 1958-59 another service school (converted me from Teleman to Radioman). 1959-61 NAVCOMMSTA Asmara (Ethiopia). 1962 USS Rhodes. 1963-65 Naples again. 1966 USS Franklin D Roosevelt. 1967-68 NAVSUPPACT Danang. 1969-71 Asmara again. 1971-73 Naval Air Station Dallas TX. 1974-77 COMCRUDESGRU TWO (cruiser-destroyer group, rear admiral's staff) Newport RI briefly then Charleston SC.
Although I spent 19 months in-country Vietnam, it was in a relatively safe rear area and I never experienced anything resembling combat, never carried a weapon, and never felt myself in any imminent danger, not even during Tet. Plus another five-six months on a ship offshore. I'm reasonably sure that if ever in combat the closest thing to a prayer I might have uttered would have been, "Oh, shit!" In 1952 boot camp we were told that everyone had to go to a religious service Sunday morning -- unless you had identified yourself as an atheist on your enlistment papers. But it was apparent that it was not being enforced, no names taken, so after the first couple weeks only the incorrigibly devout continued to attend. On my first ship a friend and I were caught on the quarterdeck when the chaplain came on the PA system for the evening prayer. Masters-at-arms yelled at us to take off our hats. We did. In Naples a friend was hassled when he reenlisted; he had indicated atheist on his reenlistment papers, some meddler in personnel brought it to the chaplain's attention and the chaplain called him in for spiritual reclamation. Neither converted the other. In Danang I had to get the chaplain's initials on my request for six-month extension. It went well until the end, when he asked my religion. "None, sir." I had no choice but to endure his grumpy disapprobation which was thankfully brief, and included indictment of Radiomen in general. Some of my sailors had earlier earned his disapproval. In the 50s, beards were legal with prior approval, but as beards became identified with hippies, radicals, the 60s counterculture, they fell out of fashion were banned in 1982.
Air Force Reserve Tech Sergeant Mike Mathers
Specialty: Air Transport
Dates of Service: 2004-2011 (active) 2011-present (reserve)
Tours of duty: April 2004-Feb 2009 Travis AFB, CA, Feb 2009-Feb 2010 Osan AB, Republic of Korea, Feb 2010-Apr 2011 Dover AFB, DE (July 2010-Jan 2011 LSA Anaconda/Balad AB, Iraq), Apr 2011-Present Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA
I became a christian my freshman year of highschool and was a sincere (if naive) believer until just recently. Earlier this year (2014) while studying WWI and the Battle of Verdun in particular I decided that God simply cannot exist. The fact that Man is capable of such profound horror has solidified not only my Atheism but my Anti-Theism. As a consequence of my time and experiences as a Christian I have an empathetic perspective and this keeps me from becoming hostile toward (most) other Christians.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Uhden
Dates of Service: Apr 2005-present
Decorations: 3 Air Medals, 3 Army Achievement Medals, 2 Navy Achievement Medals, Humanitarian Medal, Sea Service, Overseas
Tours of duty: 2010, six months Camp Basrah, Iraq; Air Ambulance, 2009, USS Essex/USS Denver; Japan, Australia, Typhoon Morokot Humanitarian mission, Taiwan, Air medevacs, 2008, Camp Buerhing, Kuwait; Air Ambulance, 2007, Camp Buerhing, Kuwait; Air Ambulance
During mortar attacks in Iraq when it was at its worst I prayed, not religiously, but philosophically. I still have hope and experience wonder and marvel at the universe. As an atheist I have sought a Navy Chaplain when I needed to talk to someone and they were great. I would love to see an atheist or humanist Chaplain because their views are more in line with mine. I am concerned with a few things with religion and the military. First is having -so help me God- in the reenlistment. I requested not to have it in mine but others, like people in the Air Force do not have that option. Christian phrases like that should be completely eliminated from the military to complete the separation of church and state. Another example I have seen is during change of commands, graduations, Navy Balls, Command Christmas Parties, where there are Christian invocations. I've voiced my concerns and was told it is tradition and that it is for the religious people. What about people like me who do not want religion at all in the military. Religion needs to be out of the military completely.
Air Force Senior Airman Shane Mitchell
Dates of Service: Oct 2010 to present
Tours of duty: Apr. 2011 - May 2014, Kaiserslautern, Germany; May 2014 - Current, Mountain Home, Idaho
Air National Guard Tech Sergeant Karl Patz
Point of Contact
Specialty: Security Forces
Dates of Service: 4 Sep 2001 to present
Decorations: Air Force Commendation Medal
Army Captain Marshall Forrest
Specialty: Signals Intel
Dates of Service: Jan 1942 - January 1946
Decorations: WWII expeditionary medals
Tours of duty: North Africa and Salerno invasion to Rome
You can be a good patriot and a good and moral person without any formal religious beliefs. I worked with cryptography teams in North Africa and then ran a telephone company in occupied Rome. I had the opportunity in Yalta to run cryptography messages. In running intelligence separately, I had the opportunity to get confirmation of the atomic bomb blast prior to the Pentagon notification. After the military, I served as a judge in Bellingham, Washington. I wasn't able to be out about my atheism as a judge or lawyer, but I hope others will be able to be out in the future.
Army Private Joshua Lopez
Specialty: watercraft operator
Dates of Service: 6 May 2013- present
Tours of duty: Operation Enduring Freedom (Kuwait), 15 Sep 2013 to present
Well I guess I will start off about prayer in combat. I think its a positive thing if it helps a soldier deal with stress on the battle field, but I strongly believe it should be done in private. Having group prayer is insensitive to individuals who do not subscribe to the certain religion of the prayer sayer. We usually have a christian chaplain say either grace or bless the unit when we have get togethers. I would consider this religious tolerance from an atheists point of view, but I think if the tables were turned we would see discrimination.
Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Thomas Roback
Specialty: Superintendent, Capabilities & Integration Division
Dates of Service: May 1988-Present
Decorations: (x2) Meritorious Service Medals, (x3) Air Force Commendation Medals, (x5) Air Force Achievement Medals, (x8) Air Force Good Conduct Medals, (x2) National Defense Service Medals, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War of Terrorism Service Medal, (x2) NATO Service Medals (Bosnia/Herzegovina & Kosovo)
Tours of duty: Qatar May-Sep 2005, Iraq May-Oct 2011
Being in the Air Force in a supporting role I have not been in harm's way as compared to my other sister services. The only time I was truly in a hazardous duty was my last deployment to Iraq. I was stationed at Sather Air Base during the final draw down of troops and our military presence. We were shelled nightly by improvised rocket propelled grades and the like, and sadly lost many good men and women. During that time, I was not an overt Atheist, but still felt no need whatsoever to pray. I took a very pragmatic approach to the shelling and alarms...I took cover and waited, not worried about the what ifs...as if it was my time...it was my time...being responsible of keeping the command and control communications up and online...there's no time to worry about anything else. As we directly support all the people beyond the green-zone...so the only thing I felt was guilt of not being able to do more. The main issue I have in the military relating to religion is the whole chapel core, and the services endorsement of such. Instead of instilling other coping mechanisms, the services continue to coddle believing service members' while alienating all non-believers in the same motion. Being a believer, in whatever religion, in the services is the accepted norm...everything else to the contrary is ignored, discounted, put down, shunned or ostracized.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Mcferran
Point of Contact
Dates of Service: Feb 2007 - Present
Decorations: Navy/Marine Corps Achievement medal x 2, Good Conduct medal x 2, Meritorius Unit Commendation, National Defense Service, Global War on Terrorism, Sea Service Deployment
Tours of duty: Boot Camp, Submarine school, A school Feb 2007 - Jun 2008, USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) Jun 2008 - Oct 2012, CTF 69 Naples IT Nov 2012 - Present
I wanted to add my name to this list not just because I am an athiest, but because I truly do believe there needs to be a separation of church and State. I have had to sit through countless ceremonies where we are subjected to some religious service or prayer. I end up just staring around the room while most others bow down. And none of these ceremonies are optional. And most of the time I actually do want to be there because they are things that honor other service members like retirements and such, but I do not want to preached to and forced to listen to the outdated fictions of some peoples beliefs. I am not against a person believing in whatever they want to, as I myself am married to a believer, but in battle, or on a ship, or command functions or anywhere, prayer and the like should be kept to yourself. Also it gets very old hearing people claim that our country, which I love, was founded on religion and a belief in god and how all our representatives continue to use their religion as a pillar of their campaigns and group all their constituants as god fearing people. We should not be treated as non-existent and or have to hide our non beliefs for fear of being punished in the military or anywhere.
Army National Guard 1st Lieutenant Josef Hughson
Specialty: Signal Officer
Dates of Service: 9/13/95 - 3/7/07, 9/12/09 - Present
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal x 2, Air Force Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: OIF Iraq November 03 - March 04; JTF Katrina Belle Chasse, LA August-September 05
Marine Lance Corporal Steffen Camarato
Specialty: Maintenance Management Specialist
Dates of Service: June 2006 - June 2010
Decorations: Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
My thought about prayer in combat, I don't have issues with it if someone wants to pray to themselves separately. However, when they try to include everyone as a whole to do it, I find it discriminating and useless. What I dislike about religion in the military is how biased it is. You will see a chaplain, who is from some form of a Judeo-Christian religion. However, where is the secular counselors? We need people to discuss these ideas of Atheism and to answer questions who are not biased and tell you to read the bible. I stood in many ceremonies where you bow your head and make a prayer. An Atheist in the military? Well, good job, now you get to work on Sunday because you obviously have nothing to do on Sundays right? It's pitiful, and any government should be secular. People in power should not be biased because of religion.
Army Sergeant 1st Class Robert Riddle
Specialty: Combat Engineer
Dates of Service: 30 Dec 1986 to 30 March 2008
Decorations: The only one that matters is the Sapper Tab
Tours of duty: OIF Aug 06 to Nov 07
Anything that increases a soldier or soldier's family's strength and resilience and enables them to emotionally bear combat and it's aftermath is worth using. That includes prayer. I never minded invocations at ceremonies, I just stood there silently while others took strength, solace, peace, or otherwise communed with their imaginary friend. One thing I learned early in my Army career is that you really have to work hard to be a bigot, the Army is so diverse that you really do realize that assholes come in all colors, as do great people and lifelong friends. There are religious zealots who treat atheists and people not of their faith unfairly. But since the command climate changes with the commander, they usually only last a couple of years before they rotate out and a person who represents the actual ethics and values of the Army assumes command. There is culture of faith in the military because some people find strength in it. There is a culture of protestant faith in the military because the majority of religious folks in the military are protestant. It's more of a logistics thing than anything else. If you are going to recruit chaplains to leverage the power of religion for better readiness and mental health of the force, and your force is 75% protestant, you would be an idiot to recruit 50% catholic or Islamic chaplains. Atheists, more than any other group, can actually place the needs of the service first, and just stand aside and let their brothers and sisters take whatever strength they can from their religion. We need to speak up if we are discriminated against, but religion isn't going away, and our mission shouldn't be to drive it away.
Marine Staff Sergeant David Rumley
Dates of Service: Jul 1981 - Aug 1998
Decorations: Navy Achievment Medal, Good Conduct, Humanitarian, Joint Meritorius Unit Comendation, Navy Unit Comendation, Marine Unit Comendation, Drill Instructor
It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one's present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.
Army National Guard Sergeant Renee Ten Eyck
Dates of Service: 1986-1992 Active duty Army; 1993-2006 Army National Guard, retired
Army Sergeant Kayla Williams
Specialty: Arabic Linguist
Dates of Service: 2000-2005
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal (w Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal
Tours of duty: Iraq, 2003-2004
As a secular humanist, I often felt uncomfortable with the prayers that were part of every formal military ceremony. I also witnessed more overt discrimination: while studying Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, one of our professors passed out Christian materials in class, and then called every Christian student up to hold a prayer circle immediately before our oral proficiency exams - leaving the Mormons, Hindu, and me sitting in our seats, mouths agape at how wildly inappropriate it was. It has since pained me to see news coverage of some egregious missteps by military personnel and consultants who have allowed the misperception that the US is involved in a war on Islam be used in terrorist propaganda. The creeping evangelism in the US armed forces is deeply disturbing and undermines core American values. I am proud to be able to raise my hand whenever someone repeats the tired and false trope "there are no atheists in foxholes" to say, "Actually, I was." Serving in combat did not turn me into a believer! It did, however, show me the value excellent chaplains can bring to those coping with the stresses of combat. I hope that more Unitarian Universalists will choose to serve as chaplains and that the military finds a way to incorporate secular chaplains into the corps in order to better serve the large number of us who are not religious.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dick Mcmanus
Specialty: Counterintelligence Special Agent/MI
Dates of Service: Jun 1968 to May 1971, May 1981 to Sept 2001
Tours of duty: South Vietnam May 1970 to May 1971, West Germany 1981 to Sept 2001
HONOR, duty, Country. I think all humans need a philosophy to understand if they are happy. Here is mine. HAPPINESS IS GETTING WHAT YOU NEED. EVERYONE NEEDS: Liberty, peace, health, sex, mind exercise, knowledge, personal associations, art and creativity, character and a sense of justice, and to be assertive (to be able to say "no" without feeling guilty. NO ONE NEEDS ARBITRARY POWER OVER OTHER PEOPLE. I also adhere to the importance of being assert - The Assertive Option by Patricia Jakubowski and Arthur J. Lange and NO TRESPASSING by Barker and Barker.
Army Staff Sergeant Kevin Reed
Specialty: All Source Analyst
Dates of Service: July 2002 - present
Decorations: ARCOM (4OLC), Good Conduct Medal (3 knots), Iraq Campaign Medal-Combat Service (1 star), Afghanistan Campaign Medal (1 star), Joint Service Acheivement Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon (3 tours)
Tours of duty: Republic of Korea (Feb 2004-May 2006), Iraq (2009-10), Afghanistan (2012-Present)
Everything in combat is stressful. Regardless where one finds themselves, stress compounds and builds. Some people release their stress into prayer, yet, all too often find out that prayers go unanswered. Many chaplains I have encountered have been pretty open to athiests in the ranks, and one even supported our athiest group. Yet, in the current command climate I'm in, I am discouraged by the amount of religious propaganda that is perpetuated and accepted by senior command. Science, logic, and reason must be at the forefront of all military leadership. Failure to do so with a faux belief in a diety will likely be akin to me wishing for the Kansas City Royals to win next year's World Series. As much as I want it to happen, unless I can play on the team and contribute to wins, it probably won't.
Army Sergeant William Yongue
Dates of Service: Feb 2006 to present
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal (5), Army Commendation Medal (3), Combat Action Badge
Tours of duty: Rustamiyah, Iraq Oct 2007 - Jan 09; Fob Shank, Afghanistan Mar 2010 - Jan 2011, Camp Eggers Nov 2012 to present
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Bobby Daugherty
Specialty: Logistics Specialist
Dates of Service: April 2006 to April 2011
Decorations: National Defense Service Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Navy "E" Ribbon, Navy Overseas Service Ribbon (2), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3), Navy And Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: September 2006 to September 2009 USS STETHEM DDG-63, September 2009 to April 2011 VFA-97 Warhawks
I was fortunate enough to not have to endure any form of discrimination due to my lack of faith. I was afforded the opportunity while in the United States Navy to work amongst some of the finest people I have ever known. My only regret is that I am no longer with them. I was known to many I served with to be abnormally literate as I was always reading in my spare time. I think people are more tolerant of opposing views if those views are based on study. I genuinely believe the majority of intolerance in this country comes from a lack of experience. I can honestly say that some of the more devout believers I worked with were some of the most noble as well. I can only hope that by having worked with me that they feel the same about an old heathern.
Army Specialist Charles Hawes
Specialty: Intelligence Analyst
Dates of Service: Sep 2010 - present
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, ACM-CS, GWTSM, Army Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: OEF 12-13 Sept. 2012- June 2013
I have not experienced any real discrimination from my unit and even have a leader who for the most part shares many of my views on religion, with the only difference being he is more agnostic where I am a total atheist. I did not consider myself a hardcore atheist until I began my deployment here in Afghanistan. I was content with saying I do not believe in god but others can if it is a comfort to them however, the longer I stay in this country the more resistant to the idea of religion I become.
Army Sergeant Walter Haynes
Specialty: Intel Analyst
Dates of Service: 27JUN07-Present
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal
Tours of duty: Al Udied AB, Qatar; 05JUL10-09NOV10
Air Force Tech Sergeant Susan Ewin
Specialty: Weather Forecaster
Dates of Service: Oct 2000 - Present
I consider myself a Humanist. Even before I knew what Humanism was I believed in humanity over religion. For the majority of my life I have been too terrified to every speak up or "rock the boat" about anything, especially religion, but I have reached the point in my life that I am no longer content to let people just assume I am Christian. My family do not approve of my choice, but I've become angry at the hypocrisy of getting shipped around the world to fight religious fundamentalism, then brought back home to have another flavor of religious fundamentalism thrown in my face everywhere I turn. When I first came into the military I thought it was a truly equal career. Over the years I've come to see all the little discriminations that occur. Enough is enough. I swore to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible. I am "Good without God" and I refuse to hide anymore.
Army Specialist Dennis Bailey
Dates of Service: February 2008 - Present
Tours of duty: Jun 2009 - May 2010, Mar 2012 - Present
For the most part my Atheism hasn't been an issue except during my last deployment. I was struggling with a lot of stress and personal issues. I let the command know that I needed some help and asked to speak to mental health. The next day the chaplain shows up at our site and proceeds to counsel me. I didn't get any help from him because I just couldn't take him seriously. I told him I was Atheist and all of his advice became about giving my problems to the lord. When he found out I was a non believer and having a rough time he saw the perfect opportunity to exploit my weakness and turn his efforts to converting me rather than helping me. I later got to see the actual combat stress and got the help I needed at the time, but the "help" from the chaplain only succeeded in discouraging me more.
Army 1st Lieutenant Landon Fisher
Dates of Service: 29 May 2009 - Present
Decorations: Bronze Star, Global War on Terror Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Service Medal (two campaigns), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Nato Service Medal.
Tours of duty: Afghanistan (Feb 11 - Nov 11)
Army Private 1st Class Spencer Morrell
Specialty: Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Dates of Service: 03OCT11 - Current
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal
I believe that two hands working does more good than one hundred clasped in prayer. Prayer, God, Faith, is a psychological crutch people use to get them through hard times. No longer can we as adults turn to our parents as a source of comfort as we did as children. Instead we turn turn to a vibrant 2500 year story. Religion is rampant in the military, but only called upon when it is convenient. The movie "Kingdom of Heaven" spoke to this: "I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness."
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Paul April
Specialty: Airframe Engineer
Dates of Service: Jan.1962 - Oct.1985
Tours of duty: 1961-63: B-52G & KC-135 Maintenance, Blytheville AFB, AR, 63-65: Atlas Missile crew, Plattsburgh AFB, NY, 65-68: Titan II Missile Crew, Davis Monthan AFB, AZ, 1970: F4d aircraft maintenance, Ubon AB, Thailand, 1971-75: F111 Maintenance, McClellan AFB, CA
I also served seven years (1985 -1992) engineering faculty (Mechanical Engineering), Penn State University, University Park, PA, Six Years (1992 - 1998) Sr. Airframe Engineer, Hq. RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Heilers
Specialty: Submarine Sonar Technician
Dates of Service: August 2001 - Present
Tours of duty: USS Honolulu (Pearl Harbor, HI 2003-2006), USS La Jolla (Pearl Harbor, HI 2006-2008), USS Frank Cable (Apra Harbor, GU 2008-2010), COMSUBPAC Navy Data Center (Yokosuka, JP 2010-2012)
I've been sort of casually indifferent towards religions for the majority of my naval career. I could never find the one that fit "just right." As a submariner, I found myself occasionally having to remind people that God can't see through the steel used in submarine hulls and that he can't help us down there. Most often I'd just get a chuckle or a, "You know, you're right."The day that I first heard about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I knew that I had unknowingly been a devout Pastafarian for quite some time. I don't know anything about foxholes, but I'm sure there's plenty more atheists to be found in the silent service.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Brian Robertson
Dates of Service: June 1995-Present
Decorations: Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal
Tours of duty: Flight Surgeon, Iraq Feb 2004-Feb 2005, Kosovo Apr-July 2003. Currently stationed at Ft. Benning, GA
I don't really have any major problems with being an atheist in the military. It doesn't really come up very often. But I suspect other soldiers might have an issue with it, so I thought I would add my name to the list. I have had okay experiences with chaplains but they don't really get involved too much in my current job; there are the ceremonial prayers that everyone seems to ignore or politely sit through at ceremonies. I, like others, enjoy looking around for the other people who aren't joining in. I don't have to answer any questions or gotten any flak about my (lack of) beliefs, but I know this isn't always the case for enlisted soldiers.
Air Force Senior Airman Nathan Lewellen
Specialty: Aircraft Maintenance
Dates of Service: 5 Aug 2008 - Present
Decorations: Meritorious Unit, Small Arms Marksmanship, Good Conduct Ribbon, Basic Military Training Honor Graduate, National Defense Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Ribbon, NATO Ribbon, Air Force Expeditionary Services, Air Force Training Ribbon
Tours of duty: Home station: Seymour Johnson AFB, April 2009-Present; Deployment: Afghanistan (Bagram AB) September 2009-January 2010
I must admit, that I don't really know specifically of things I've had to "opt out" of per se, but there have been numerous times in my career, to include basic training, tech school, and beyond that I've been uncomfortable in participating in mandatory formations in which prayers are held. Unfortunately, while I would love to just step out of formation and explain why later, I fear that doing so would put in more of a position where they would say "just go through the motions and stay where you are instead of disrupting things. I'd have to say the worst experience I've had was a time during tech school that I was being questioned about some trouble in which I had found myself. My MTL (military training leader) asked me directly, and behind closed doors, "do you believe in god?" I just told him "no" and he proceeded to explain to me rules of the Air Force regarding my situation with undertones of the morals reflected in those rules and where they "came from". I don't remember specifically as to whether or not he quoted the Bible or tried to bring up biblical stories, but is was one of the most emotionally prominent memories I have of the Air Force. I believe that the line between church and state has been blurred for far too long and needs to be redrawn with a VERY thick marker. It sickens me to think about the metaphysical ideas upon which decisions that affect the lives of myself, my fellow Airmen, my family and my country are based. I shudder to think of how life will be if the growing trend of religion in the government continues. It's been said that the war I fight even now is one based on religion. I don't think that's 100% true, but it's in no way 100% false either. It's a well-known fact that there have been more human beings killed on the face of this planet in the name of religions and gods than for any other cause or purpose. Religion's uncanny ability to obscure that fact and prevail over rationality prevents people, no matter how intelligent, from seeing this and putting a stop to it. This needs to come to an end. I only hope we, as a collection of races within one species can renounce religious dogma, and embrace rationality and logic and most of all life before we destroy it from the face of this earth forever over things that no one alive today can prove to be true.
Navy Ensign Coey Sipes
Specialty: computer network manager
Dates of Service: Dec 2000 - Present
Decorations: Airmedal/Strike (2) Joint Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (2) various unit and campaign awards VQ-1 2002-2006 ISO Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom NIOC CO 2006-2010, NCTS Naples ISO Odyssey Dawn
Ever since I had to learn the command "Let us pray" I have been annoyed with religion in the military. While I was enlisted I went on numerous deployments and before we went on any of them we got our chaplain brief. Let us pray for a safe return. I would rather not leave it up to some mythical entity to decide if I come home or not, I would rather rely on the actual people I'm working with and then we won't have to pray for anything. I was also a colorguard member. Where at nearly every event I had to listen to some prayer or another. When I was doing a colorguard for a funeral, I was fine with it because its what made the family and friends of the member feel better so I say, fine sure let the people pray, its their moment of grief, its their day, I was never upset about attending them because, I though if being here in uniform helps ease this families pain at all, then its worth it, its what I chose to do. However, when I'm at the Navy ball I shouldn't have to bow my head in prayer or at a dining out or any other official military event. I think that for the predominately Christian population in the military, less main stream religions such as Muslim (there's only a handful of Muslim chaplains) and Buddhist are hard for them to handle atheism or agnostic generally are not favored.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Francy Legault
Dates of Service: Currently Serving
Decorations: Navy Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Battle "E" Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, National Service Defense Medal, Pistol and Rifle Sharpshooter Ribbons
Tours of duty: Deployed to the Persian in support of OEF and OIF 2006-2007
I believe prayer in combat is fine for individuals who believe. It shouldn't be forced on everybody because not everyone believes the same. If they do want to hold a public prayer, then allow us atheists to leave for the duration of the prayer. I was deployed on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for 8 months to the Gulf and every night over the 1MC (the announcement system) was prayer. I found it intrusive. I felt like a captured audience. Also, in boot camp, we were learning commands - right face, march, all that and 1 command is "Let Us Pray" and we were told it didn't matter what we believed, when we heard that command, we HAD to bow our heads. So prayer is a command. I try as often as possible these days not to bow my head, most people don't notice because their heads are bowed. I do find many people are very intolerant of nontheists, mostly these are the "fundies." I am absolutely an atheist in the foxhole.
Army Captain James Higgins
Specialty: Patriot surface to air missiles
Dates of Service: May 1998 to June 2006
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM), Army Achievement Medal (AAM), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal (GWOTEM), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal (GWOTSM), Army Service Ribbon (ASR) and Overseas Service Ribbon (OSR)
Tours of duty: Operation Northern Watch, Incurlik AB, Turkey, 1999. Operation Southern Watch, Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia, 2001. Operation Iraqi Freedom, Al Jabar AB, Kuwait, 2003. I also had assignments in Germany, Korea, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, Ft. Bliss, TX, and Nellis AFB, NV
Despite my multiple deployments to the Middle East, I never experienced what I would consider combat. So, I do not use the term "combat veteran" to describe myself and have no first-hand experience with prayer in combat. Regarding prayer in general, I conceptualize it as the western tradition of centering or meditation, and have no issues with those who chose to practice it on thier own or in groups of like-minded individuals. Of course, I firmly believe that rational thought and personal responsibility are far better solutions to problems than wishing for a supernatural "out" from life's trials! But if someone needs to indulge in a few minutes of quiet reflection, that doesn't bother me. I have only rarely directly experienced religious discrimination. Although, many, many times I silently rolled my eyes when chaplains would offer prayers at meetings, official social functions, before deployments, and at any other activity where everyone was forced to attend and listen. Especially the prayers offered "in Jesus' name", which is presumptious, exclusionary and offensive to any non-Christian. I definitely have been made to feel excluded by others (including some, but not most chaplains) and I do feel that if I were more outspoken in my younger years about my disbelief, there would have been potential for far more. I also strongly object to compulsory religious services. (Yes, they did happen. We weren't ordered into the chapel, but it was "frowned upon" to object.)
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Royce Hairston
Dates of Service: Oct 09 - Current
Decorations: Pistol Qualification, Global War on Terrorism, National Defense
Tours of duty: NAS Fallon Sept 22 - Current
I have not been in the Navy for very long, but during my service so far I have come across several instances of intolerance. The intolerance I have faced has not been from my chain of command but rather my fellow junior enlisted. I would advise anyone with these problems to handle yourself with tact and discretion when making your point to your shipmates or combat partners. You can control the situation and make it tolerable if you maintain a cool head.
Army Warrant Officer 1 Christopher Roberts
Specialty: Flight Student
Dates of Service: 23 AUG 2006 through present
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge
Tours of duty: August-November 2006 Boot Camp, Fort Benning, GA. November 2006-May 2007 AIT, 68W (Medic) Fort Sam Houston, TX. May-June 2007 Reception and Rear Detachment at Fort Lewis, WA. June 2007-2008 OIF, Camp Taji and FOB Warhorse, (Husseiniyah, Rashitya, Baqubah, Tharir) Iraq. June 2008-January 2009 HSB 2-12 Field Artillery, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, WA. January 2009-March 2011, DiLorenzo TriCare Health Clinic, The Pentagon, Washington, DC. March 2011-Present, Warrant Officer Flight Training, (1st Warrant Officer Company and Bravo Company, 1-145th Aviation Regiment) Fort Rucker, AL
I have been told to bow my head in respect to others during prayer at mandatory formations for changes of command/pass and reviews. I have never made a big stink about it, just ignored the order/guidance to bow my head and looked around at how rainy of a day it was at Fort Lewis, WA. Another thing I found to be very disheartening was being required to talk with our unit's chaplain after being involved as the Medic in an IED attack on our vehicle that killed our former platoon sergeant and wounded everyone else besides me. I was always told that 'God has a soft spot for Medics' but even after walking away with all my limbs and my life on that day, I held firm in my choice of being an Atheist. I didn't pray for the deceased 'soul' nor did I even think about meeting with the chaplain regarding the event. When we met with the chaplain we were asked to pray and yet again, I found myself looking around the room thinking 'what are we accomplishing here again?' There was no divine presence there to help any of us through the event, just the guys sitting around being reminded of a really bad day. We had multiple occasions where our chaplain came out and asked that we pray before we went out on patrols/raids. I was always busy on missions being one of only 3 medics in our Battery so, I was there for most of these prayers thinking, 'Religion is why we are in this war in the first place, haven't you guys figured that out yet?' I am also not very fond of the morning prayers we had in Warrant Officer Candidacy School where the unit chaplain would be asked to pray after we concluded with PT. During each ceremony we had at Candidate School, (after PT on different occasions, during the 'Senior Pinning' ceremonies, graduation and Oath of Office ceremonies), the chaplain was there to pray with us and I stood there trying not to think that I had more productive things to accomplish with my time than wasting it with prayer. It would be one thing if the formations weren't required but, who would want to miss their Appointment to WO1 ceremony because prayer was interwoven into the ceremony's events? Another side note I found to be very coercive was that all Service Members who were married were allowed to visit with family members during Sunday worship services while those who weren't religious or those who weren't married were stuck on work details during that period of time. The Candidate School Policy places a restriction on candidates having visitation while assigned to Candidate School with threats of elimination if found to be visiting when not on a pass. It gave the appearance that religious service members were rewarded for going to church while the rest suffered through work details and no visitation for six weeks. I had a long discussion one day with our chaplain in Iraq about his stance on faith and god and whether any of the stuff he earns a living preaching about was actually true. He was very open to discussion and very stubborn to acknowledge the delusional nature of his stance on religion. He didn't take very kindly to being asked whether he feels that his faith was better defined as his delusion but still left the subject open to discussion. I tend to not profess to the world that I have no faith, as I do not need someone else' support to hold true to my views/non beliefs. There should however be a heck of a lot more support and consideration given to non believers in our Army and in our society. That is why I am here, I want to help this cause until there is no reason to be a part of it anymore.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin Standing
Specialty: Aircraft Maintenance
Dates of Service: Feb. 09 - Present
Decorations: Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal (Service) Tours of duty, with dates: BMT - Lackland AFB (Feb. 09 - Apr. 09), Tech. School - Sheppard AFB (Apr. 09 - Sept. 09) Ramstein AB, Germany (Oct. 09 - Present)
The main problem I have with prayer in the military is how it starts off almost every major event. Everyone is asked to bow there head and I have to put up with it. A public prayer at a military event is unconstitutional. There's nothing wrong with a prayer in private as long as it doesn't interfere with the mission.
Army Staff Sergeant Daniel Schaffer
Specialty: Airborne Infantry
Dates of Service: May 2005 - current
Decorations: Combat Infantry Badge Tours of duty, with dates: Iraq Sept 2007 - Jul 2008, Afghanistan Dec 2009 - Nov 2010
Army Major Gareth Lintt
Specialty: Army Engineer
Dates of Service: Feb 95 - Current
Tours of duty: Operation Iraqi Freedom, Jun 03 - Apr 04, Jan - Dec 06, Sep 07 - Dec 08; Operation Enduring Freedom, Jan 11 - ~Jan 12
If you're praying in combat you have too much time on your hands. If you're praying while deployed in a staff position you do not know how to do your job well enough and you're hoping something will come along and magic this knowledge into you. I do not know that I have experienced overt discrimination due to my lack of belief, I tend to just not discuss religion while working. I am also one of those people that does not bother bowing my head during prayers prior to ceremonies, or for whatever reason. Never had anyone say anything to me either. And I would not expect anyone to, much easier to get away with non-theistic actions when you're an officer and on staff. Much more difficult for lower enlisted members when they have their immediate chain of command frowning on their actions.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Marc Latou
Specialty: Nuclear Machinists Mate
Dates of Service: 03FEB03 - 15MAY06
I believe we always were consider to be in some portion of Hazardous Duty, as we were always exposed to some higher than background level of ionizing radiation. As an ELT, we would be the first inside the Reactor Compartment after shutdown and have to ensure that the radiation/contamination levels where appropriate before allowing others inside. In addition, there was always a threat of a steam leak.... Prayer: I think that if any individual feels in necessary to pray, that's fine (and is well within their right). However, it should not be a unit event, in part to prevent any feeling of exclusion or discord between members of the unit. I think this idea fits well within core values and is or should be taught to recruits just like every other form of discrimination is. I recall my boot camp RDC's frequently telling fellow recruits that they "looked like brothers" -- that's how it should remain. Religious Tolerance/Discrimination: I did have some discriminatory experience with a professor at a local college while attending classes during my Navy time, he seemed to down-rate every form of religion that wasn't Christian. From my fellow sailors however, I would say that I had no issues with discrimination or intolerance. It rarely came up except from a questioning view, when referring to the war, I had several other sailors say "isn't it all the same God?" Phrases like that led me to investigate, and think about my worldview, which eventually allowed me to admit that I couldn't believe in this God. When I sought help or advice there was a catholic chaplain, who, while very kind, seemed to have difficulty understanding the worldview I was expressing--and was thereby less helpful in alleviating my troubles and giving advice that was useful to me.
Marine Lance Corporal Michael Parker
Specialty: Satellite Communications
Dates of Service: Feb. 2007 - Feb 2012
Decorations: Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal
Tours of duty: Iraq from Jan. 2010 - Nov. 2010, currently deployed to Afghanistan
Army Sergeant Janson Cusick
Specialty: Air Defense Artillery
Dates of Service: April 2009 - Present
Decorations: Army Achievement, Global War on Terrorism
Marine Reserve Sergeant Thomas Howard
Specialty: Mobile Assault
Dates of Service: 1998 - 2006
Decorations: Combat Action Ribbon, Iraq Campaign, Expert Rifleman, others
Tours of duty: August 2004 - March 2005, Al Anbar Province, Iraq
Air Force Reserve Tech Sergeant Jeff Powers
Specialty: Crew Chief
Dates of Service: 06/2001-09/2004 (Active), 09/2004-present (Reserve)
Army Staff Sergeant Justin Miller
Specialty: Arabic Linguist
Dates of Service: 06 AUG 2003-Present
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal (awarded twice), Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncomissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Basic Aviator Badge
Tours of duty: Operation Enduring Freedom VII (Afghanistan, Feb 2006-Feb 2007), Operation Iraqi Freedom VI (Iraq, May 2008-May 2009)
Army National Guard Sergeant Miguel Hernandez
Specialty: Cavalry Scout, and Small Arms and Artillery Repairer
Dates of Service: April 1999-Present
Decorations: urple Heart, 3 Army Commendation Medals, 4 Army Achievement Medals, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Good Conduct, Expeditionary and Global War on Terrorism Medals, National Defense, NCO development Ribbon, Overseas Medal x4 and the Korean Medal
Tours of duty: Korea 2000-2001, OIF 1 2003-2004, OEF 6 2005-2006 and OEF 5 2007-2008
I was raised to be a catholic, my family at a young age took me back to Mexico where Catholicism is very strong. I always questioned the whys of religion but stopped when they put the fear of god in me. During my first deployment I had plenty of time to think since I had no other form of entertainment and started questioning my views in god. As time passed I always came with dead end answers and stop believing completely even though a lot of my fellow soldiers called me a heathen, the devil and what not. I am one of those persons who doesn't really care for people's opinions. I feel more at peace now and will never deny my beliefs no matter how many people put me down.
Army National Guard Specialist Jacob Retz
Specialty: Truck Driver/possible officer
Dates of Service: 3/3/99 - 3/2/03 (Navy) and 11/7/10 (NG)
Decorations: Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal
Tours of duty: USS Enterprise, Mediterranean Cruise, April '01 - October '01 (participated in first joint strike against Al Qaeda, off the coast of Pakistan, after 9/11. (The planes flew over Pakistan and into Afghanistan.))
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hill
Specialty: 13S, Space & Missile Operations Officer
Dates of Service: May 1990 - Present
Decorations: Defense Meritorious Service Medal w/1 OLC, Meritorious Service Medal w/1 OLC, Air Force Commendation Medal w/2 OLCs, Combat Readiness Medal, Air & Space Campaign Medal
Tours of duty: Malmstrom AFB, MT (1990-1995); Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan (1995-1997); Schriever AFB, CO (1997-2001); Vandenberg AFB, CA (2001-2004); Fort Belvoir, VA (2004-2006); The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. (2006-2007); Stuttgart, Germany (2007 - Present).
I am a former Southern Baptist that transformed into a very outspoken Agnostic over the last 12+ years, a journey started after my second daughter was still-born in 1999. Every scrap of religious teaching came under scrutiny when every question I posed found a dead end, and from this blossomed the rational-thinking creature at the end of this post.
Navy Seaman Recruit Lindsay Shannon
Dates of Service: 02NOV09- Present
Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Anthony Moran
Specialty: Maintenance production management
Dates of Service: 2002 - Present
Began in Air Force active component
Marine Reserve Major Douglas Walton
Specialty: Fighter pilot A-4s 1965-1975
Dates of Service: 1965-1975
Decorations: 23 Air Medals, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Etc., etc.
Tours of duty: VMA-121 Chu Lai RVN Dec 1967-Dec 1968 FAC: 3rd Marine Div July-Sept 1968
We lost 6 pilots out of twenty. I lost a wingman; he was captured then executed by North Vietnamese regulars. I was hit at least six times, but managed to fly the jet home each time. Never once "prayed" for anything. Or anyone!
Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Chris Kopps
Specialty: Avionics Technician
Dates of Service: January 2007 - Present
I've always questioned faith, even when I was a little kid in catechism classes I found holes in religion that nobody seemed to have an answer for other than, "Have faith" or "God's ways are higher than ours." But it wasn't until after Basic that I began to really explore what I believed in, and the answer was nothing. Since I admitted this to myself, and subsequently, to everyone else, I've been very lucky that nobody has been relentless in their proselytizing or discriminated against me for it, but I see it in the media every day, and I'm very glad there are organizations like MAAF and its partners to support atheists in their struggle for equality.
Army Captain Audrey Quinby
Specialty: Military Police
Dates of Service: Active, June 2006-June 2010; Currently in Reserves
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Badge, Iraqi Campaign Medal (Surge), etc.
Tours of duty: OIF, 2007-2008
Army Sergeant David Lindberg
Dates of Service: 2001-2005
Decorations: Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) Combat Medical Badge (CMB) and several other campaign and commendation awards and medals.
Tours of duty: OIF 1 March 2003 - April 2004
I arrived at my atheism through skepticism and scientific inquiry. My atheism and anti-theism was reinforced by hearing the cries, in English and Arabic, for mercy or help from "god" when a person was hurt and or dying. The help never appeared to come. Seeing humans die brutally, slowly, or without Hollywood style drama is a life, or rather, death-affirming experience. My family and I and thousands of others have paid dearly. I continue to "fight" due to my 50% disability from PTSD.
Army Private 1st Class Andrew Lowe
Specialty: aviation operations specialist
Dates of Service: Nov 2006 - current
Decorations: Army Service Ribbon, National Def Service Medal, Global war on Terrorism Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Overseas Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Op New Dawn Medal, and OIF Medal
Tours of duty: Qatar (Jul 07 - Oct 08), Iraq(Mar 10 - Mar 11)
Air Force Chief Master Sergeant William M. Cundiff
Specialty: Public Affairs
Dates of Service: May 1972-July 2002
Decorations: Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Air Force Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards); Air Force Commendation Medal (7 awards); Air Force Achievement Medal (4 awards); Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon
During the first 10 years of my military career I was indifferent to religion, practicing none. I later voluntarily became a Roman Catholic, and then later (again voluntarily) became a Unitarian Humanist. Throughout my 30-year active duty career I was never hassled about religion. Things have changed. In both military and civilian life the evangelical religious virus has infected everything. Freedom of religion and freedom from religion are equally important to a just society. I'm a member/supporter of the MAAF, the American Humanist Association, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in an effort to help inoculate society from the evangelical virus. I look forward to the day when there's no longer a need to support these organizations.
Army Captain Kattarina Simons
Specialty: JAG officer - attorney
Dates of Service: February 2009-present
Tours of duty: Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2010
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Hodge
Specialty: Sonar Technician
Dates of Service: August 13th, 1998 to present
Decorations: Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal (3 awards), Flag Letter of Commendation
Tours of duty: Standing Naval Forces Atlantic USS Moosbrugger (NATO Operation), March - September 2000; Mediterranean Cruise USS Mahan, June - December 2002; Joint Warrior (NATO Operation) USS Laboon, Current
Navy Commander James Ridgway
Dates of Service: July 1991 - present
Decorations: Navy Achievement, Navy Commendation (2), Joint Service Achievement, Volunteer Service
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark Matson
Dates of Service: 1989-present
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Commendation Medal, AF Commendation Medal, Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: 9-93 Norton AFB, CA; 93-95 Osan AB, ROK; 95-98 Aviano AB, It; 98-00 Hickam AFB, HI; 00-02 NATO Programming Center Glons BE; 02-04 McConnell AFB, KS; 04-06 Nellis AFB, NV; 06-07 Maxwell AFB, AL; 07-present Pentagon Wash DC
Grew up a Lutheran, went to Sunday School and Church through college. Started to become a real doubter though when I started watching Carl Sagan in COSMOS as a kid. Didn't really give it all much thought until I had my own children. I've always just kind of known that the many, varied stories of gods were just that, but it didn't bother me that others weren't able to see the same thing. Lately my lack of belief has become more important to me as I realize the kind of societal and cultural brain washing that my kids are exposed to. It is hard to explain to them why daddy does not believe that "God made us", "that's what everybody else says is true". Therefore, I am trying to learn as much as possible about the arguments for and against religion so I am ready to discuss it when they are old enough to ask real questions.
Air Force Master Sergeant Sherry Burt
Dates of Service: Nov 98-present
My career field is made up of musicians who are generally liberal-minded or at least fairly tolerant. Still, nearly everyone is Christian and many are outspoken church-goers. I freely express my views as a non-theist in hopes that folks will come to accept atheism/agnosticm. At the very least, I hope to avoid the usual asumptions about my beliefs. However, when I play a concert for an audience, the people in attendance nearly always assume Christian beliefs and shower me with "God Bless Yous" and whatnot. There is nothing I can do about this, and it is tolerable considering the general goodwill with which it is given. Still, it irks me somewhat, and I like to imagine a future where the "A" word is not feared and mistrusted.
Navy Reserve Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Averi
Dates of Service: November 2007- present
Decorations: Afghan campgain medal, NATO medal
Tours of duty: May-2009-November 2009
Air Force Tech Sergeant Dale Coonfield
Dates of Service: 1992-current
Decorations: Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal AF Overseas Ribbon
Tours of duty: Little Rock AFB AR 92-96, GITMO Cuba, Kwang Ju AB South Korea 97-98, Altus AFB Ok 98-2003, Al Jabar Kuwait, USSTRATCOM NE 03-05, Barksdale AFB LA 05-08, Osan AB South Korea 08-09, Barksdale AFB LA 09-Current
I have found that for the most part my lack of religion is pretty much a non-issue. When prayer is led at functions I just look ahead and remain quiet. I have no problems with prayer at functions, I just don't participate. I don't look down on people who pray, it's what they do to feel good and who am I to say it's right or wrong. I am surprised at the amount of people in the Air Force who are unsure of religion and the existence of a higher power.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Rumery
Dates of Service: 1984-1990
Army National Guard Specialist David Wulf
Dates of Service: ct, 2004/Oct, 2010
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: Operation Iraqi Freedom-May, 2007 to June, 2008
Army National Guard Sergeant Gary Rice
Dates of Service: 2/12/1995-Present
Decorations: AB, ARCOM, AAM
Tours of duty: OIF2003-2004, 2009-present
There are 4 atheists in my unit and we are having an issue with our chaplain and command praying prior to everything, from meetings to movement. He and everyone else in the command just make us uncomfortable every time we do something.
Army National Guard Specialist Brandon Figueroa
Dates of Service: April 12th, 2005 - Present
Decorations: Bronze Star w/ Valor, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Service Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman's Badge, NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Global War On Terrorism Medal
Tours of duty: Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan 2008-2009. Kabul, Nuristan, Kapisa, Kandahar, Logar, Bagram, Darulamon, Jalalabad
Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Kyle Sanders
Dates of Service: August 2004-Present
Tours of duty: US Air Force Academy CO, Vance AFB OK, Corpus Christi NAS TX
Marine Lance Corporal Pierce Presley
Dates of Service: 1/28/1991-1/27/1996
Decorations: National Defense Service Medal 1991, Good Conduct Medal 1994
Tours of duty: Maintenance Platoon, Landing Support Equipment Company, 1st Landing Support Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Camp Del Mar on Camp Pendleton, Calif.) Sept. 1991-Jan. 1996
Air Force Captain Ileen Verble
Dates of Service: July 2003 to present
Decorations: AF commendation, Army commendation
Tours of duty: MacDill AFB 2003-2007, Travis AFB 2007 - present, Bagram AF, Afghanistan August - December 2008
Air Force Major Tina Kinsley
Dates of Service: 9/1996 to present
Tours of duty: stationed Osan AB, ROK in 2002/3
Here's what I don't understand: why we need to open official government functions with a prayer. At my MILTARY residency graduation, there were two separate prayers. A moment of silence? Sure. My Lord JC? No. Also, at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio,TX, the chaplain sent out "daily inspirations" with bible verses to EVERYONE. The JAG decided that we had to opt out of this. However, it seems to me that one should have to opt in. Oh, and the email in question was sent with a CC to the BG who ran the base, implying that the command had approved (and sanctioned) the religious-overtoned communiques.
Army Private 1st Class Edgar Valderrama
Dates of Service: 2/2/1944 to 4/25/1946
Decorations: Combat Infantry Badge, WWII Victory Ribbon, EAME Theatre Ribbon with three bronze service stars, Good Conduct, etc
Tours of duty: EAME 12/9/1944 to 7/20/1945
Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Neil Moody III
Point of Contact, org of CENTEX MAAF
Specialty: 91K Medical Laboratory Specialist
Dates of Service: March 2002-present
Navy Commander Jonathan Underwood
Specialty: Naval Aviator
Dates of Service: Feb 12, 1972 to Oct 30, 1994
Decorations: Naval Aviator Wings- Aircraft Carrier Qualified
An ever increasing number of unchurched citizens are thriving in this Country who believe in thinking freely for themselves, using only science, reason and their own personal observations to guide them, and they refuse to allow the decrees and dogmas of religious authority and holy books in any way to interfere. They come with many tags - skeptics, atheists, unbelievers, humanists and so on. They are generally not well thought of in this Country. We represent the contributions and aspirations of the millions of upright free thinkers in this Country, many of whom are veterans and retirees as I am. Our world views may be at variance with many, but we love this Country. Our allegiance to the United States is steadfast and unwavering in the same tradition as it was with our deist fore-bearers, Benjamin Franklin, Tomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. It should be recognized that if exemplary citizens can be prejudicially reproached with "guilt by association", then the logical inverse of that progression applies as well, and that is "honor by association". It is my hope that for the 21st Century an informed Zeitgeist in America will include an awareness that closely held values including Duty, Honor, Country are not the sole domain of any single faction however large, or of any coalition of those who hold popular doctrines and creeds. We are "one Nation," although not under anybody's God, "with liberty and justice for all."
Air Force Captain John Rolsen
Specialty: Bomber pilot
Dates of Service: Graduated US Air Force Academy 2004, still serving
Tours of duty: Operation Iraqi Freedom (Sept 09-March 10)
In Iraq I have seen no discrimination based on religion. As for prayer in combat, if someone needs it they are more then welcome. While deployed in the Pacific or at home station there is a lot of prayer at mandatory functions, and that bugs me.
Air Force Senior Airman Greg Russell
Dates of Service: 19 July 2004 - 19 July 2008
Decorations: Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Meritorious Unit award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon (with citation for service in a combat zone)
Tours of duty: Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq; 2006-2007
... and to do my part to dispel the no-atheists-in-foxholes adage, I served under fire--numerous times
Army National Guard 1st Lieutenant William Bonin
Dates of Service: 1987-1993, IRR until 2001.
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: Minnesota Army National Guard, Army Reserve
While I did sit through some unit assemblies with the Chaplains (some mandatory, most not), I never had to deal with mandatory prayer. I took the time to read or nap and never faced any adversity for my lack of participation. I was never the only one reading/napping, and once commissioned I made sure that my people knew they didn't have to participate in any religious services even if they had to go. Since my time was effectively all reserve duty, and in peacetime no less, my exposure to military evangelists was limited. I actually had a much harder time dealing with other officers due to the fact I was enlisted first than my lack of belief. Then again it was much easier to avoid the issue as an officer.
Army Sergeant John Gill
Dates of Service: April 2005-present
Decorations: Bronze Star Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge
Tours of duty: Nasiriyah/Al-Kut/Al-Diwaniyah, Iraq Aug 2006-Nov 2007
My first glimpse of Army belief pushing came when I was standing on a parade field as a brand new private, refusing to bow my head for the chaplains prayer. My platoon sergeant told me afterward that even if I didn't believe in God, I should bow my head out of respect for those around me. I agreed as long he would bow his head with me and pray to some other god he didn't believe in. He wouldn't and since then I've made it a point to stand extra straight with my chin up during every prayer I'm forced to listen to. I don't face too much discrimination, possibly because I'm very outspoken and set in my beliefs. I find it ironic that grown, educated men and women look down on people who don't believe in fairy tales. I was raised very religious and from as far back as I can remember I couldn't understand how someone could tell me that Santa wasn't real while spouting the Bible in the same breath. People told me that when bullets start flying, I'd find religion real quick. Well, the bullets flew and I'm proud to say that even when I felt fear, not once did I waste time begging imaginary friends to save me. I'm glad there's a group like this. I know a lot of people who would benefit from this as they're very timid about letting on that they're atheist. For me it's a source of pride that I'm not superstitious. Born on the 25th of December to a virgin, called the Son of God by his disciples, and risen from the dead three days after he was killed, we wish a happy birthday to Mithras, the mythological Persian god imagined 600 years before that other guy.
Air Force Major Rodger Nelson
Dates of Service: May 99 - Nov 08 AF Active, Nov 08 - Present ANG
Decorations: Air Medal w/ 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal w/1 Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/1 Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, Small Arms Marksmanship Ribbon
Tours of duty: South Korea, Jan 02 - Jan 03; Afghanistan, Apr 04 - Oct 04
As an Officer, I've found it relatively easy to be a military non- theist, but I imagine it would be quite a different story for a young Enlisted member. I've decided now that I've got over 10 years under my belt I need to make myself available to other service members who may need some help with issues related to being a non-believer in today's military. If anybody out there is reading this and needs help, or simply just wants someone to talk to who can relate, please don't hesitate to contact me. The easiest way to do so is through the MAAF Facebook page - it's a relatively small group on there, and I'm the only Rodger Nelson, so shoot me a message and I'll get right back to you. Good luck, and don't let the apparent saturation of Christianity through the military get you down - you can serve along side them and continue to defend the country you love. Some of my best friends are Mormons and Southern Baptists, and while we completely disagree on theology, we still live, work, and fight right alongside each other. I personally think we atheists sometimes do ourselves a disservice by distancing ourselves too much from our religious peers - make them like you for who you are and the work you do first, then hit them with your beliefs if it happens to come up.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Laura Six
Dates of Service: since Oct. 22 2004
Decorations: 2 Navy Achievement Awards, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Tours of duty: VFA-136: May 2 2005- Dec 10 2008, NAS Fallon: since Feb 9, 2009; Deployed - USS Enterprise: May 2 2006 - Nov 2 2006, July 5 2007 - Dec 15 2007
Air National Guard Senior Master Sergeant Calvin Yonamine
Specialty: Computer Maintenance
Dates of Service: July 1977 to Present
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, AF Achievement Medal, AF Meritorious Unit Award, AF Outstanding Unit Award, AF Combat Readiness Medal, ARF Meritorious Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Tours of duty: Oct - Nov 2001 Saudi Arabia, Sep 2006 - Jan 2007 Iraq
Army Reserve Major Raymond Bradley
Lay Leader III
Specialty: Medical Service Corps
Dates of Service: 1986 to present
Tours of duty: Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) 2004-2005
It never bothers me to keep my head up in formation while others are praying. And I've noticed over the years that more Soldiers do the same. I doubt there are that many more Atheists today. Most likely, fewer feel afraid to reveal they are not Christian. And though religion is strong and apparent among many in the military. I believe it is the un-bowed heads in the formation that remind the world that we are united by freedom above all else.
Marine Master Sergeant LeRoy Bloom
Dates of Service: Sep 1958 to June 1978
Decorations: Navy Commendation with "V", Good Conduct Medal with five stars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four stars, Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, Vietnamese Service Medal.
Tours of duty: Vietnam Tours; June 1966 to June 1967 and November 1968 to December 1969
By the time I joined the Marines at age seventeen I was at least an agnostic , if not yet an atheist. I had no preference for religion on my dog tags and caught grief from the DI for it. We were forced to go to church on Sunday. Either you fell out as a Catholic or a Protestant and were marched to church. In those days I was too intimidated by the DI to attempt refusal to attend Church. By the age of twenty I had become a confirmed atheist, and to this day have seen no reason to change my ideas. During two combat tours in Vietnam I was under fire my share, but I never thought of praying. Instead I always tried to make a reasonable assessment of the situation, and tried to act accordingly. To have prayed, in my mind, would have been a waste of valuable brain resources better used in ensuring my, and those in my charge, surviving. My first tour was as an adviser to the Vietnamese Army. I was the adviser to a Vietnamese Battery Commander. I got into several close scrapes, but again did not waste my time and mental resources in prayer.
Army National Guard Sergeant Jordan Sawyer
Dates of Service: round July 2000
Tours of duty: Germany Jul 02 - Feb 03; Iraq Sept 08 - Sept 09
I believe prayer in combat is a healthy thing for theistic believers. Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress, hardship etc and I believe religion is a great way to handle that. Though its certainly not for me. I do on occasionally get a little grief when I step out of the room for a chaplain's prayer. My platoon and unit are very accepting of my Atheism. In fact I'll get into some enjoyable debates with some of the Christians here. Usually around Creation vs Evolution.
Army Sergeant Gene Miller
Specialty: combat medic
Dates of Service: ct 17 67-69
Decorations: ombat Medical Badge, Bronze Star with V, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal W/4 Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/Device 1960, 2 Overseas Bars, Army Good Conduct Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation Badge, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal First Class unit Citation Badge, Expert M-14, M-16
Air Force Senior Airman Adam Aleweidat
Specialty: Munitions Systems
Dates of Service: March 2007 - Present
Decorations: Basic Military Training Honor Graduate and Warhawk, Munitions Systems Apprentice Course Distinguished Graduate, Expert Marksman (M16 and M9), Awarded Senior Airman Below-The-Zone
Tours of duty: January 2009 - July 2009 (Qatar)
I joined the Air Force just over two years ago. I was an atheist at the time, and am still an atheist today. The big difference is that in the beginning I wanted nothing more than to rid the world of radical religious chaos. I thought that joining the military would give me the opportunity to serve a country dedicated to rooting out religious fundamentalism. I later realized that I wasn't fighting against the bad guys, I was just joining more religious nuts - a whole bunch of 'em - in fighting other religious nuts. I know that not everyone in the service chooses a dogmatic path, but quite a few do, and that's enough to turn me away from this lifestyle. Lately, I have been reading about Conscientious Objection and am realizing that this pertains to my situation almost exactly. I can't say that I wake up hating my job - I don't. But I do wake up hating the fact that I'm supporting a war fought by two sides that have more in common than they think - religion! Heck, I'm Palestinian but am still much less similar to a radical Muslim guerilla than a blind-believing Christian is. My morality comes from reality, theirs from delusion. I'm ranting. Thanks for reading.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Russell Case
Dates of Service: Aug 79 / Feb 82
Decorations: AF training Ribbon, AF Outstanding Unit Award / 1 device, Small Arms Expert Marksman's Ribbon
Tours of duty: Keesler Medical Center, Biloxi Miss, Multiple TDY assignments - Europe, Japan, Philippines
Religious proselytizing by the "Born Agains" during my time serving as a surgical specialist / medic at Keesler AFB was profound and constant. It became intolerable after an officer I trusted found out I was a Atheist and told others in his christian group on base. At first it was the daily knock at my dorm room to "Save my soul" and then the anger and harassment started, ranging from letters to being denied promotion and extra duty. My commander had no shame or hesitation in telling me that I was not fit to wear the uniform and there were no atheists in foxholes, and Christ was my only hope ... after 2 years of this non stop dogma I told them where to stuff there crosses and left the Air Force soon after. I served with good men and women of many beliefs who never once made my atheism an issue, good friends and excellent medics. Our patients then and now were our primary concern, and to see and hear a Chaplain with the surgeon standing in the room say to a patient who was Muslim "you need to repent before surgery... just in case" enough is enough!
Army Warrant Officer 1 Charles Kane
Specialty: 11B Infantry Squad Leader
Dates of Service: Oct 2002-current
Tours of duty: Afghanistan Feb 2006-Dec 2006
I haven't had to deal with too much discrimination (I know many that have however) though I have had to deal with the proselytizing of colleagues and the Army's annoying religious rituals that occur during every event or ceremony I've had to attend in the military. While deployed to Afghanistan I never once looked to the heavens in prayer nor have I ever acted in a cowardly manner. All the strength and bravery I ever needed I found from within, proving that there are truly "atheist in foxholes".
Army Specialist John Besignano
Specialty: 11B Infantry
Dates of Service: August 2004 - July 2009
Decorations: Comabt Infantryman Badge, ARCOM, AAM, ICM, GWOT
Tours of duty: Baghdad Dec 05 - Nov 06, Al Gharraf Jun 08 - Jun 09
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Theresa Durkee
Specialty: Aerographer's Mate
Dates of Service: June 1978 to January 83
Tours of duty: NTC Orlando 1-79 to 3-79, Chanute AFB 3-79 to 6-79 (Aerograher's Mate A School), NAS Miramar (NWSED which changed to NOCD) 6-79 to 1-83 Specialty: AG (Aerographer's Mate)
My experience in the Navy was positive and there was no Christian evangelism or proselytizing going on that I was aware of. We were encouraged to attend a church service of our choice on Sunday mornings while in boot camp, but other than that I do not remember any mention of religion. It is disgusting and appalling to read and hear about what has happened to our armed services over the last decade or so. I can only hope that President Obama re-instates the Separation of church and state, follows the Constitution and returns our nation and our military to their former good standing in the world. Religious zealots, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, do not belong in positions of power and have always been (and will certainly continue to be) the most destructive force in the world.
Army Sergeant Chester Callahan
Specialty: Communications Center Operations
Dates of Service: April 1961 - April 1967
Decorations: National service, Vietnam Service, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/Device
Tours of duty: Germany 1961- 1966, Vietnam 1965 - 1966, Ft Gordon Signal School 1966 - 1967
Army Specialist Joni Cromwell
Specialty: 14E, PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainor
Dates of Service: 12 Jul 05 - 11 Jul 09
Decorations: Overseas Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Army Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal (2), Good Conduct Medal, Expert Badge (50 Cal. gunner), Marksmen Badge (M-16), Driver's Badge
Tours of duty: Korea Oct '06-Oct '07
Army Sergeant Christopher Wilson
Specialty: Cavalry Scout
Dates of Service: September 2005- Current
Decorations: Purple Heart (1), ARCOM with Valor (1), ARCOM (3), AAM (3)
Tours of duty: July 06- February 07 (Iraq), July 07- July 08 (Afghanistan)
Army Sergeant KJ Kendall
Specialty: Artilleryman, Prime Power Production Specialist
Dates of Service: 2000-present
Decorations: 5 Army Commendation Medals, 3 Army Achievement Medals, 3 Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Tours of duty: Mosul/Nineveh '04-'05, Baghdad/Diyala '07-'08
I have devoted a great deal of pondering and marveling about the natural order of things. This has gone on for years, and I don't see any end in sight. I feel that this is a healthy practice. The absence of theism fosters explorative, objective thought without the emotional constraints that religion imposes. People have a tendency, Americans especially, to live out their days in a socio-psychological bubble that they are comfortable with. And understandably so, since it is much easier to live this way. "That's how Mom/Dad always do it", or "Pastor Dan says...", or "I dunno, Judge Bob gave his verdict... it must be so" - it is always easier to fall in line, rather than go against the grain. When I was young, I felt the ubiquitous power of the cross and stood in awe before the eloquence of Holy Scripture, yet at the same time was puzzled by group rituals and the idiosyncrasies of its followers. Then I waded through the turbulent waters of teenhood, and solutions to my questions became even more muddled, but ironically, the more confusing it got, the more clear the answer became. There I sat on the fence without a religious preference as I joined the military at the age of 22. It was the Army that steeled my atheism. New experiences and all the exposure to other cultures popped my "bubble". I always give solid credit to the military for my personal revelations... thank you, Uncle Sam. In basic training, a fellow Private "tattled" to our Drill Sergeant that I (oh-my-gosh) didn't believe in God. A lot of embarrassment ensued, and I was given "special" treatment by him for the rest of my training. In leader development training, I got severely dehydrated during land-navigation... some flunkie failed to stick an IV needle in my arm five or six times then volunteered to escort me to the hospital. During the entire 1-2 hours that he was with me, he vehemently tried to proselytize me. He had a very creepy approach... I wish I was armed with the information and resolve that I have today. Similar occurences happen every day to some level or degree. The problems with military religiosity, or society as a whole are beyond the scope of my humble statements. I feel though, that the eventual extinction of human superstition and religion are inevitable... I only wish that I could see the day. As for combat operations, at no time did I feel it necessary to call upon prayer... for me, that's natural. But for those that it provides solace... more power to them. It would be nice if religion didn't permeate everything that we do, but unfortunately that is the current state of our reality.
Army National Guard Captain Ben Tupper
Specialty: Infantry Officer
Dates of Service: Sep 93 to current
Decorations: Bronze Star, Combat Infantrymen Badge
Tours of duty: May 06- May 07
My only comment would be that while I was in Afghanistan, I was embedded in the Afghan National army, and the biggest impediment they have to development is their religious fervor. They will neglect training, because in their logic, it's a waste of time because their god will decide if they live or die. In their mind, training is pointless. It's all "insh'allah" (if god wills it). Its a classic example of how fundamentalism, of any stripe,retards human growth and progress...
Army Sergeant Aaron Couture
Dates of Service: 2004-Present
Decorations: Joint-Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Tours of duty: Afghanistan, March-September 2005
Upon first entering the military, I was dismayed to be required to attend Easter services during Basic Training. Although I have not experienced direct discrimination due to my open Atheism, I experience on a daily basis the culture of ignorance and closed-mindedness that is the US Military. The broadcast of Pro-Christian media on government television overseas, without a single Atheist or even non-christian broadcast is troublesome. When speaking out about such issues, I am told that this is the way the Military is, and that if I don't like it, I don't have to stay in. I did not experience much direct fire while deployed, but never once did I ever have the slightest notion that I would need or want "God's" protection.
Air Force Captain Stefan Hamelin
Dates of Service: Jul 94 to present
Tours of duty: ADAF Enlisted 94-01, ADAF Officer 01-present
Fortunately, I've only had to endure the prostlytizing of colleagues and the mild annoyance of having imaginary men thanked and praised for my hard work during various ceremonies. Still, the military hospital can be a lonely place for an atheist, as deism has often been a part of armies through the centuries and my belief in God is almost implicitly accepted by many who view the the physician as a healing tool of divine power. I am grateful for groups like this that not only enable atheists to connect with each other, but also allow other to see that we are alive and well in all areas of the military.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Murphy
Specialty: Space Operations Officer/Enigneer Officer
Dates of Service: May 14, 1994 to Present
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: Iraqi Freedom Dec 05 - Nov 06
I currently work in a 3-Star command and about 90% of my coworkers are DA Civilians or Contractors. I immediately noticed the proliferations of religious (Christian) artifacts, religious quotes, bumper sticks, etc. that surrounded me. It pushed me further into my non-belief. After having recently completed my master's degree, I have taken to studies of Atheism, Evolution, and Christianity in an attempt to understand the "virus of the mind" that has taken such a strong hold in the United States. As I read more and more, I increasingly consider the possibility of retiring to England or Northern Europe.
Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Reilly
Dates of Service: 10-15-94 to 10-16-00
Decorations: Good Conduct Medal, 2 Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals
Tours of duty: 8th Marine Regiment Headquarters Company Communications Platoon
Army National Guard Private Louis Altman
Specialty: clerk typist
Dates of Service: 1959-1960
No combat experience, so I am not qualified to comment on prayer in combat with any certainty. As a Jew I experienced no religious discrimination at all. During my 8 weeks of basic training Jewish soldiers at Fort Dix were excused from cleaning the barracks on Friday nights to attend sabbath services on base.
Army National Guard Specialist Charles Shinaberry
Specialty: 19D Cav Scout,11B infantry
Tours of duty: Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan on first deployment
Air Force Staff Sergeant Fredric Schmeelk
Dates of Service: 1993-2001
Tours of duty: Griffiss AFB, NY, Oct. '93 - Aug. '94, Charleston AFB, SC, Aug. '94 - Sep. '01
I was pretty weak in my atheism when I first joined and had the "No religious pref" on my dog tags. The longer I was in, the stronger my atheism got. I found fellow atheists through the internet in late 2000, and that really helped me figure things out. I resent the idea that we are not as patriotic as anyone else in this country. If I had to do it over, the only thing I'd change is asking to put "Atheist" on my dog tags. Otherwise, I'd serve just as honorably.
Air Force Colonel Ariel Thomann
Specialty: Chief Flight Surgeon
Decorations: Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, others
Tours of duty: Army Senior Medical Student Program 1962-63, Army Reserve during Internship 1963-64, US Army Dispensary, Ft. Clayton, Canal Zone 1964-65, USARSO Surgeons Office, Ft. Amador, Canal Zone 1965-67, 614 Tactical Fighter Squadron and USAF Hospital, Torrejsn Air Base, Spain 1979-83, USAF Regional Hospital, Sheppard AFB, Texas 1983-86, 147 USAF Clinic, Ellington ANGB, Houston, Texas 1986-90, IMA USAF Reserve, Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, Texas 1991-96
While bored, at age 10-12, I happened to read a hymnal and found that the hymns I had parroted for years were absurd. In high school, the father of a classmate said he was not bound by the ideas of bronze-age desert nomads, and that reactivated my thinking. I flirted with religion in college but realized the absurdity of the "leap of faith" I was being asked to take. I still have an American Atheists certificate of membership signed by Madalyn Murray O?Hair. I also still have my last set of military dog-tags, and they say ATHEIST. For about 10 years I have studied our Revolutionary period and the Founding Fathers, with emphasis on the 1787 Constitutional Convention. This was NOT meant to be a "Christian Nation."
Army Sergeant 1st Class Steven Ledbetter
Dates of Service: Sep 1977 - Mar 1996 Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal (2), Army Commendation Medal (6), Army Achievement Medal (4), Overseas Service Ribbon (2), Army Parachutist Badge
Tours of duty: Frankfurt, Ger 1982-1885, Berlin, Ger 1992-Aug 1994, Bamberg, Ger Sep 94 - Nov 95
Prayer is a personal thing; silly in my view. However, since many people feel better doing this, then go for it. However, I do not wish to be forced to be around such nonsense. While I was a midshipman at the US Naval Academy, we were required to attend religious services on Sundays. It was during this time that I started to define myself as an atheist. I did not suffer any religious discrimination while on active duty. Although I was unable to get dog tags saying atheist, that has changed recently. When I took the oath of reenlistment, I spoke with the officer reading the oath prior and had him delete the phrase "...so help me, god." I haven't been so lucky in my civilian career. I believe my Atheism affected my position as a teacher while in Harlingen, TX. Although I cannot prove it, I believe that when I left, recommendations from my previous administration were less than stellar due to my open atheism and challenges to School Policy.
Army Staff Sergeant Maurice Ivy
Specialty: Ammunitions Specialist
Dates of Service: June 1996 - Present
Tours of duty: Germany 2000 - 2002, Recruiting Duty 2002 - 2006
Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven Freund
Specialty: Helicopter Pilot
Dates of Service: 5 Jan 99 to present
Decorations: ASR, OSR, GWOTS, NDSM, AGCM, AAM, NCOPDR, ARCOM
Tours of duty: Iraq: April 03-July 03
I haven't had too many bad experiences with discrimination. In fact, I tend to seek out the Christian fundamentalists in each unit that I go to and try to befriend them so that we can have "lively discussions" on religion. However, a few instances of minor discrimination come to mind. While I was in WOCS school, my wife came to get some info from the commander in charge of the school. When he sat my wife down to explain how she could visit me during church, my wife politely informed him that we do not go to church. He said something to the effect of "May God have mercy on your soul" while giving her a look of shock. My wife was also in the Army (we have been together since before the military), and in basic training her drill sergeants ignored the fact that she didn't want to pray in formation. Other than that, the only thing that I have a problem with is the organized prayer before any ceremony. I refuse to bow my head. I have also been fairly lucky to find at least one non-believer in most units that I have been in.
Air National Guard Senior Airman Conor Jensen
Specialty: Emergency Management/Weather Forecaster
Dates of Service: Active Duty 05/18/2004-05/03/2007; Guard 05/03/2007-Present
Decorations: AF Achievment Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, AF Basic Training Honor Graduate
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class William Friday
Specialty: Russian Linguist
Dates of Service: Aug 1976 - Aug 1996
Decorations: Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Joint Services Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Ribbon, Battle Efficiency "E"
Tours of duty: USS Jason AR-8 (Repair Tender) Feb 1977 - Apr 1980; VFP-63 Photo-Reconnaissance F-8 Squadron, Miramar Naval Air Station, Jul 1980 - Jan 1982, Naval Security Group Activity, Fort Meade, MD Oct 1983 - Aug 1987; Naval Security Group Activity, Homestead FL Aug 1987 - Aug 1990; Naval Security Group Activity, Fort Meade, MD Sep 1990 - Dec 1994; Naval Communications Station, Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory Jan 1995 - Jan 1996
I was not an atheist when I joined the Navy but I was when left. My military experiences had some influence on my decision to discard God and religion but I don't want to overstate this. The prejudice I experienced both as a believer in a minority religion and later as a non-believer had something to do with it. I never experienced incoming fire but I saw shipmates die. I know some of my shipmates prayed or attended services and most declared a religion, I never saw the desperate, fearful praying during life threatening crises as that you sometimes see in war movies. What they did was focus on the job at hand and pull together as a team to get everyone through safely. There was an unspoken agreement that irrational panic and appeals to magic were out of place and unwelcome. While they may have believed, on some level, that a God exists, they treated the world as the metaphysical reality and system of natural laws that it is because that is the only thing that could achieve our goals and keep us safe. The biggest concession to superstition that I saw was the wearing of religious symbols. My perception was that there were fewer devout believers in the military than in civilian life. I speculate that this is because acting in accordance with religious fantasies is much less dangerous in the protective bubble of civilian life.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Renfro
Specialty: Infantry Operations
Dates of Service: Enlisted in the National Guard, 1948; Regular Army 1949. Commissioned from West Point, 1954. Retired, 1979.
Decorations: Combat Infantryman's Badge
Tours of duty: RVN, 1966-67, XO, 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, Other overseas assignments: Korea (2 tours), Japan, England.
I guess I was fortunate in that I never ran in to any blatant religious discrimination or intolerance. That is why I am so appalled at what is going on in the Armed Forces today. It ain't your daddy's army.
Army Private 1st Class Adam Gardner
Dates of Service: April 1, 1006-Present
All I have to say about Religions is one thing. Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies.
Air Force Reserve Captain Jason Renner
Specialty: Civil Engineer
Dates of Service: 2002-2007
Decorations: Commendation Medal
There is a strong Christian presence in day to day military operations. The judeo-christian god is referenced in oaths of re-enlistment, commission oaths, promotion ceremonies, retirement ceremonies, and even large squadron outings. I have nothing against Christians or any other religious person, but the idea of a creator being looking over us like a puppet on a string is kind of silly. There has to be more to life than spending eternity in Club Med with Jesus or breaking rocks in hell with Satan.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Davies
Dates of Service: January 04 - Current
Decorations: Seaservice deployment, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Achievement Medal
Tours of duty: Operation Iraqi Freedom 3/4, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Navy Seaman Justin Allen
Specialty: Deck Seaman
Dates of Service: March 8th 06 - current
Decorations: Global War on Terrorism, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary, Sea Service, National Defense, Battle "E"
Tours of duty: 1 Jan 06 to 16 Jul 06 and 27 Jan 07 to 20 Apr 07 - USS Ronald Reagan CVN76
My job can be dangerous, heavy steel lines can break and the flailing can take a limb off or just knock someone into a wall and kill them. A line can get caught on your foot and pull your body through a 1 sqft hole. Nasty stuff, balanced by the vast majority of our training being about safety. There is nightly prayer while underway. Depending on the chaplain praying, its either a morale rally bit about sticking it through and some genuine positive commentary or it's a guy who drones on about how blessed the christian faith is. It gets particularly preachy near holidays. I've had nothing like atheist beatings or anything, just occasional yelling and angry escalation.
Air Force Captain Michael Huntingford
Specialty: Aerospace Control
Dates of Service: Mar 74 - Apr 04
Decorations: Order of Military Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, United Nations Emergency Force II, Canadian Forces Peacekeeping Service Medal, Deputy CINC NORAD Commendation, Canadian Forces Decoration with clasp, Air Force Commendation Medal with 4 devices, Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal, others
Tours of duty: Tours of duty, with dates: Many locations over 30 years including CFB Edmonton, Gagetown, and North Bay, as well as Egypt and NORAD.
During my service as a Regimental Policeman in Egypt (May - Nov 1979), I had several events that were life-threatening. One was the apprehension, arrest and detention of two knife-welding Egyptian Nationals that penetrated the UN camp. The other more significant event was a sniping and small arms fire fight with an unknown number of aggressors that were intent of forcing the UN to move out of Eygpt. Later, they were identified as elements of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (same group behind the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981). Although the sniping and the follow-on fire fight were of short duration, it was intense nonetheless. Although stressful, there was no praying that I recall - at least not from me.
Air Force Major Gary Welch
Dates of Service: Jun 62 - Jun 84
Tours of duty: Included Maryland, Vietnam, England, Texas, and Nebraska
Army Major Gene Wesley
Specialty: Special Forces
Dates of Service: 1984 to present
Army Specialist Daniel Rabalais
Specialty: Mental Health/Medical
Dates of Service: 15 AUG 04 - 15 AUG 08
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster), Global War on Terror Ribbon, Army Service Medal
Tours of duty: Ft. Knox 23 Feb 05, current
Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Kaminoff
Specialty: Intelligence Analyst
Dates of Service: June 1996 - December 2003
While discrimination against Atheists in the military is rarely demonstrable, there is a definite feel of state-sponsored Christianity. Every retirement ceremony has a chaplain, and I've seen more than one held in a church. There were many times I was in formation and we would all bow our heads at once when the Chaplain began his sermon. A couple of times I simply didn't bow my head, and hoped that someone would try to make a big deal out of it later (which never happened, unfortunately). I had several other service members tell me I would go to hell because I was an Atheist. I ended up getting a new set of dog tags made just before I got out that said Strong Atheist instead of the No Religious Preference ones I was given in boot camp. It made me feel better, if nothing else.
Army National Guard Sergeant Christopher Watkins
Dates of Service: Jan 03 - Present
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal x2, Good conduct medal, overseas service ribbon, global war on terrorism, global war on terrorism expeditionary, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defence Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: South Afghanistan Dec 2003 - June 2004
Army Captain Marcus Byrne
Specialty: Field Artilery
Dates of Service: Enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1999 decided I wanted to go active duty, so I went to college and received my commission in 2004.
Decorations: ronze Star Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal (1OLC), Overseas Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, GWOT Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge, Parachutists Badge
Tours of duty: Tall Afar, Nineveh Prov., Iraq January-May 2006; Ramadi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq, June 2006 to March 2007. Assignments: 417th Quartermaser Company, USAR, Cp. Atterbery Indiana; 1/330th IN REGT, 84th DIV (IT), USAR, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ball State University ROTC. Ft. Sill for Field Artillery Officers Basic Course (May to Nov 2004); Giessen, Germany 2d Battalion 3rd Field Artillery Regiment as a Fire Support Officer for 1-37 Armor, Battery Fire Direction Officer, and Motorized Rifle Platoon Leader (Nov 2004 to Present).
Even thought I think religion is idiotic brainwashing I'm very libertarian about it. People can do whatever they want as long as they don't expect me to join in their idiocy. It would be like me going and getting a lobotamy and telling everyone to join in. Every formal function in the military is started with a prayer. Always by a Christian and mostly Protestant Chaplain. I know for a fact the same people that are bowing their heads and earnestly praying to their imaginary friend would be in an uproar if they sent a Wiccan priestess up to the podium to give the Benediction. I mean it's equal opportunity right? But that would be just silly, because the Wiccan goddess isn't real, only their imaginary friend is real. I've been to many functions and everytime it irks me when they do the benediction, because it's this sort of unstated arogance and entitlement of the tyrannical majority. But I've also noticed over the years as I stand up and look around, the number not participating does seem to be getting larger. I've never really noticed anyone praying before we've gone on missions. But we all have our lucky charms and mini-rituals. Even I had them and I'm the biggest skeptic out there. But if it makes people feel better as long as they dont expect me to buy into their BS, I dont care what they do.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Zenas Van Slyck
Dates of Service: 5/13/74 - 5/12/78
Decorations: National Defense Service Medal, Navy "E" Ribbon, Navy Good Conduct Medal
Tours of duty: NAS Guam 10/74-1/76, USS Grapple (ARS-7) 2/76-11/77, USS Bryce Canyon (AD-36) 12/77-5/78
There were times in rough weather, in mid Pacific when I had my fingers crossed, but I didn't and wouldn't resort to prayer. I had no negative experience of religious intolerance or discrimination while in the Navy.
Air Force Captain Charles P. Smith
Dates of Service: January 1962-June 1986
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal
Air Force Captain Andrew Hunstock
Specialty: C-130 Pilot
Dates of Service: 14 August 2005 - current
Tours of duty: NAS Whiting Field, Milton FL
I have been lucky enough not to have had any personal conflicts with religion or with the people I work with. I do feel that it is a shame that a secular nation founded by enlightenment thinkers is so open to bending over backwards to support any and every religion's request.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Wheeler
Specialty: Nuclear Mechanic
Dates of Service: Served 4/01 - 3/07
Decorations: 2 Naval Unit Commendations, Global war on terrorism service and expeditionary medals, National Defense Ribbon
Tours of duty: USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) 1/03 to 3/07
A friend of mine was on a ten month deployment ( I arrived in the middle) and it was a common practice to have certain members of the crew read the "evening prayer". I'm not a big fan of this activity, since there's no way to escape it unless you're asleep (They even stop the movies that are playing on the TV network and put up a splash screen saying "Standby for the evening prayer"). My friend happened to be Wiccan. Her request was denied and she was told that not only was she not allowed to read the evening prayer (because only the Chaplain(s) were allowed to do so) but that her group could no longer meet in the chapel because the Xtians had to purify the sanctuary after every time the Wiccans met. It's a shame really, that those people are so closed minded. I've been lucky and only had a few run ins with particularly religious persons, and not been discriminated against on a general basis. As for prayer in combat, whatever floats your boat. As long as you're still paying attention! You can't glorify your god if you get killed with your head down, sniveling for protection. That's what your training was for.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class K. Mark Northrup
Specialty: Aviation Electronics Technician
Dates of Service: June, 1983 - 30 Sept., 2003
Decorations: National Defense, Navy Unit Commendation, SW Asia Serv. Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medals
Tours of duty: Attack Squadron 65, Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana May, 5/84-6/87, Advanced Avionics School Class C7 (AVIC7), NATTC Memphis, 7/87-5/88 Attack Squadron 128, NAS Whidbey Island, 6/88-6/91, Attack Squadron 196, NAS Whidbey Island, 6/91-5/95, Attack Squadron 196, 6/91-5/95, Naval Air Maintenance Training Group, NAS Whidbey Island 6/95-7/96, Enlisted Educational Advancement Program (EEAP) Western Washington, University, Bellingham, WA 8/96-11/97, Electronic Attack Squadron 139, NAS Whidbey Island, 12/97-12/01, Electronic Attack Squadron 137, NAS Whidbey Island, 01/02-09/03
I was on one of the first aircraft carriers to start dropping bombs on Afghanistan in October of 2001 (USS Theodore Roosevelt). One night, during our daily dose of "state sponsored religion" (the evening prayer) the chaplain was beseeching Yahweh's (the Judeo-Christian god) blessing on our efforts, proclaiming that we were on the side of righteousness. I remember saying to one of my shipmates that I was quite sure that the folks on whom our bombs were falling were praying the exact same prayers, just with Allah (essentially the same as the god of the old testament) substituted for Yahweh, adding that this belief that WE had a lock on the absolute TRUTH, and THEY were irredeemably WRONG and therefore EVIL, is the sort of attitude that got the planet into this mess in the first place.
Army Reserve Captain Laurel Williams
Specialty: Military Intelligence
Dates of Service: as appropriate: Oct 1985 to present
Decorations: Army Achievement Medal 2x, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, German Army Shutzenschnur in Bronze
Tours of duty: Active Duty: 86 to 88 - Nuremberg, Germany, 2000 to 2002, Southcom, Miami, FL, 2003 to 2004, Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Reserves: 88 to 91 Washington DC, 91 to 97 IRR, 97 to 2000 Pittsburgh, PA, 2004 to present Orlando, FL
I am on the verge of testing new ground with a request for new dogtags with Atheist, since "no religious preference" is not synonymous. I have been an atheist since 1976 when I decided to cease going to the Baptist church. After 1976, the last time I regulary attended church was in Basic Training because they always had Dunkin donuts and hot chocolate. Back then basic was segregated by sex so we could also talk to guys at church during the reception after the service. I presently live in Orlando where I am beseiged daily by Jesus via fish emblems, and all variety of christian bumper stickers, window decals on cars plus all the religious knick knacks, and constant religious references of people at work. I have been reading a little about Buddihism lately because that seems to be close to my actual viewpoint if I disregard the portion of Buddhism that regards Buddha as a diety. I also got a license plate holder that says Godless American so it is just a matter of time before one of my co-workers sees that and comments about it. I feel like I am coming out of the closet!
Air Force Staff Sergeant Joe Suders
Dates of Service: as appropriate: Enlisted 4 Sep 00
Decorations: . AF Outstanding Unit Award - 1 oak leaf cluster, AF Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, AF Overseas Ribbon Short, AF Overseas Ribbon Long
Tours of duty: 2000 - tech school - Shepherd AFB, 01-03 - Kadena AB, Japan, 03-04 - Hill AFB, UT, 04-05 - Kunsan AB, South Korea, 05- current - RAF Fairford, U.K.
Army Reserve Captain Neil Moody Jr
Specialty: Physician Assistant
Dates of Service: as appropriate: 1984-Present; prior Army SFC
Decorations: Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" and "2" devices, Reserve Achievement Medal, NATO Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, National Defense Service Ribbon, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Liberation of Kuwait (Saudi) and Liberation of Kuwait (Kuwait)
Tours of duty: Germany 1985-1987, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm 1990-1991, Operation Joint Guard (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 1996-1997, Operation Noble Eagle 2004-2005
I have served in two distinct hazardous duty zones, in addition to Cold War service working with nuclear weapons. There is an interesting culture of religion in the Army, wherein the entire mission is stated in terms of service to the US and god, the implication being that the two are one and the same, or at least inextricably linked. Those who do not believe are actively berated, left out of social functions, etc. Most official functions are opened and closed with prayers from Army Chaplains. If you go to the PX, the book section is full of spiritual guides (all Christian, by the way, no Muslim or other faiths represented). I don't participate in unit prayer. When the benediction is given, I am upright, with head high and eyes open. This has gotten me a few comments from other soldiers who reflexively bow their heads when asked to do so. I tell them, "I choose not to bow to anything or anyone," which will usually end the conversation. I am fortunate to work with medical personnel, who are usually a little more rational, or at least discreet enough to keep their faith to themselves when accomplishing the mission at hand. I have, however, reminded more than one chaplain (one in particular while in Bosnia) that atheists can be evangelical, and bet that, of the two of us, he was more likely to have a crisis of faith in a combat zone than I.
Navy Reserve Lieutenant Rick Sarmento
Dates of Service: as appropriate: March 1998 - present
Tours of duty: Jan - Mar 2005, Balad, Iraq
The level of religious influence in our government is truly frightening. This is not rhetoric, but fact supported by the latest polls that show atheists to be the least trusted group in society. As for religious practice in the military - I personally find its influence far too pervasive. I have regularly been 'preached at' by fellow service men trying to "save" me. Although I don't mind a good discussion, the simple fact that I don't believe makes me an outsider in my own unit -- to a certain degree. This nation needs to reawaken -- it needs another enlightenment by which people realize that rational thought, evidence and reason are the tools that lay the foundation of morality and happiness. Religions false promises and contradictory message have done enough harm -- it's time we abandon them.
Army Sergeant Steven Secor
Specialty: Airborne Infantry
Dates of Service: as appropriate: Jan 03-Present
Tours of duty: OIF Jan 04-May 04, OIF Sep 05-Jan 06, OIF Oct 06-Oct 07 (Upcoming)
Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Geoff Slater
Dates of Service: 31 May 2006 - current
Tours of duty: Air Force Academy, Awaiting Intelligence training at Goodfellow AFB
Army Specialist Thomas Millard
Specialty: 44b metal worker
Dates of Service: as appropriate:Sep 01 - Mar 06 Active, Mar 05 - current NG
Decorations: ARCOM (2), AAM, Iraq campaign medals
Tours of duty: OIF1 Mar 03-Jul 03, OIF3 Jan 05 - Jan 06
Army Specialist Richard McNulty
Specialty: Military Police
Dates of Service: as appropriate:Jan 12 2002 to present
Army Private James Hughes
Specialty: Air Defense Command and Control
Dates of Service: : 20060228
I am still horrified at the amount of influence religion exerts over the Army of a secular republic. There is the Soldiers Code which says "I will trust in my god..." there is the Pledge of Allegiance which says "One Nation, Under God." There is the Army song which says "faith in god, then we're right." There is the fact that every ceremony I have attended was prefaced with a christian prayer including "rites of passage" and "graduation." The drill sergeants at basic allowed soldiers to have bibles, but did not allow me to have a copy of 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand, which represents my particular philosophy (Objectivism), but since it was 'only a philosophy' and not a religion, it was not allowed. At Fort Leonard Wood, MO we were required to go to the church building for a briefing by the Chaplain. We were required to go on a "free day away" which was held at a church and ended in an evangelical salvation sermon. As an atheist who loves America and wants to fight for the freedoms that this country represents I am appalled at so blatant an establishment of religion, no particular religion, but religion as such, in our Army.
Army Reserve Sergeant Andrew Gotcher
Specialty: Intelligence Analyst
Dates of Service: as appropriate: 2004 - Present
Tours of duty: OIF 03/06 to 03/07
Prayer should be 100% optional, and I have never seen an instance where someone was "ordered" to pray in the military. All in all, the army is fairly indiscriminate in my experience. I was told in Basic Training to go to services or I would have to hang around the barracks and clean all day. I found this very offensive at the time, and I cleaned with pleasure. But I realize now, that my Drill Sergeants were only trying to get out of having anyone to babysit.
Army Colonel Bobby R Lang
Specialty: military inteligence/infantry
Dates of Service: Enlisted 1946, commissioned Army of the US 1947, commissioned Regular Army 1960, retired 1972
Decorations: Legion of Merit w/star, foreign citations Korea and Vietnam
Tours of duty: Korea 1953-1954, Vietnam 1965-1966 Non-combat tours omitted Intelligence
The religious nonsense used to brain wash persons from birth to death conditions them to look elsewhere for the responsibilities of life and to believe in an afterlife. Both sides in combat pray to the same nonentity, so neither should lose if there is an all powerful force guiding the outcome. Might makes right according to clerics and politicians; why then did we lose in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, and are fairing no better in Afghanistan and Iraq? Religiosity was stronger in some units than others. I was not discriminated against, I kept my convictions to myself. In the mess when asked to lead a prayer, I confined it to a plea for the deliverance and protection of women, children and the infirm without recourse to god. I was raised a southern baptist, in college I was astute enough to recognize the dichotomy religion/science and opted for science.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jim Garn
Dates of Service: as appropriate: 1957 through 1966
Decorations: Primarily Vietnam related
Tours of duty: USS Ault (destroyer), USS Bainbridge (first nuclear powered surface ship), USS Galant (Minesweeper), US Navy SEAL training
I became an open or out of the closet Atheist during my combat tour in Vietnam, I used to debate with a Navy Chaplain that I was assigned to from time to time as his personal bodyguard. There is more to the story but I'm not ready to discuss it at this point.
Marine Sergeant Richard Dixon
Specialty: avionics tech.
Dates of Service: Jan 1995 - 3 Feb 2000
From Bootcamp where I had to listen to the sheep pray twice every night before lights out, and getting my balls broke for having NoReligiousPreference on my dog tags, I always wondered why there weren't more open minded Marines. I have always taken freedom of religion to include freedom from it. I don't have a problem with services being made available to people in need, but it shouldn't be in my face, and when it's wearing the cloak of a millitary officer, there's a forced subserviance to their ideals. It's just wrong. I know that there are thousands of soldiers, sailors Marines and airmen that feel the religious pressure from the Bush on down as we fight Islam, I mean terrorism, which was it again? There are always positive stories as well, and there should be more posted on your site, our site. Around the beginning of the 3rd month of bootcamp, one of our more aggressive drill instructors, nameless for the sake of what I hope is a rewarding career sent all the religious groups off to church. After all the other religious preferences had gone off to bow before their respective allmighties, the few, the proud, the Marines that were left in the squadbay actually got some time to hang out and relax. It was about 45 minutes, but there was no god in our midst, and it was a relief. I would like to thank him, and I will if I ever run into him.
Army Captain Gary Jones
Specialty: armor crewman; judge advocate
Dates of Service: Enlisted 28 August 1974 to 28 August 1978; Judge Advocate General's Corps, July 1988 - June 1995; Civilian employee April 1996 - Present
Tours of duty: Grafenwoehr Germany 76-77; Neu Ulm, Germany, 88-90; Vilseck, Germany, 90-92; Sinop, Turkey 92-93; Vilseck, Germany 93-94; 1995; Vilseck, Germany 96-02; Bamberg, Germany November 2002 to Present.
Our office Hail and Farewells, which are social occasions, were customarily opened with a prayer by a layperson. Usually these prayers are made "in the name of Jesus." Objections are met with scornful looks. I attended a memorial service commemorating the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I was looking for some kind of closure but instead had to listen to Chaplains pray to their Christian gods and church music. This spoiled the ceremony for me because I do not believe in a god and because I know many Muslims praise "Allah" for the great victory of 9/11. I can think of no greater "blasphemy" than offering empty prayers to a lie to commemorate an event that is consecrated by the blood of innocent victims. I know of one company commander who requested that there be no prayers at his change of command ceremony but he was ordered to have a Chaplain lead a prayer. My office overlooks the parade field where most of the change of command ceremonies take place. I hear the Chaplains turn these events into occasions to proselytize for their faith via their prayers. One is left with the impression that the Army has become a Christian Army. I do not go to church because I do not believe in any god. I dislike being exposed to religious lies at secular government functions. If I wanted to listen to prayers and testimony, I would go to church.
Army Reserve Specialist Randall Knapke
Dates of Service: /00-12-05
Decorations: 2 Army Acheviement Metal, 2 Joint Service Acheviement Medal, Global War on Terror
Tours of duty: Guantanomo Bay, Cuba 05-03-06-04
I am a Global War on Terrorism Veteran. I just came across this organization. I which I knew more about this group when I was in the service because I never felt comfortable during events/prayers. Also, I was never able to get agnostic on my dogtags which always disturbted me because if I died I didn't want to be mistaken for something I never was.
Army Captain Jeffrey Kugele
Dates of Service: May 06 - current, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Irwin, CA Apr 04 - May 06, Hawaii Army National Guard Dec 87 - Feb 02, US Navy, USS Worden CG-18 (Dec 87 - Feb 92), Aviation Officer Candidate School (Feb 92 - Jun 92) , VFA-94 (Sep 9
Decorations: Army Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action, Southwest Achievement Medal, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal Quartermaster, Physical Massage Therapist, Aviation Maintenance Officer, Power Plant Engineer Operations Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom
Served in US Army and Navy as well as Hawaii National Guard. Prayer in combat is talking to imaginary friends. I had a department head boss on the USS Nimitz who whould insist on flaunting WWJD memorabilia. He would use his position illegally to advance his beliefs, making claims such as E=MC 2 and Einstein are wrong, Intelligent Design is correct, George Bush is great.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Phil Smith
Specialty: Nuclear missiles
Dates of Service: 1987-1991/1992-1998
Decorations: Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal w/oak leaf cluster
Tours of duty: Lackland AFB (1987), Chanute AFB (1987), Minot AFB (1988-1991), Desert Storm (1990-1991), Offutt AFB (1992-1998)
I am an atheist, and never experienced any discrimination as a member of the military or as a civilian. However, I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the movement away from our nation's secular foundations. Too many believe this is a nation founded on Christian principles, rather than principles discovered during the European Enlightenment. Prayer and other religious services should absolutely be provided to soldiers during peace and wartime. I will never, ever, kneel before the supernatural; however, as a soldier and as an American citizen, the Constitution is the supreme word, not religious texts. I also support the notion that the Constitution can be scrapped if the people find it cannot serve their needs, so I do not see the supreme law of the land as sacred.
Air Force Major Kenton Brown
Specialty: Human Resources Intel Ops Officer
Dates of Service: as appropriate: AUG 1969 - approx. SEP 95 (?)
Tours of duty: Too many to name - CONUS, Germany, Panama, etc.
I never had any anxiety or fear during para-ops. My confidence was not religion-based. I just had great "faith" in my equipment, the jumpmasters & riggers, and my peers. My safety depended on risk factors which I understood & accepted, yet mitigated by the competence of my comrades and my application of training & techniques. I never bowed my head during any religious rite or prayer, nor have I on the rare occasions that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited said "...under god..." While I never proclaimed my atheism, I never denied it either, just as I rarely discussed politics and remain a registered Independent. All of my ID/dog tags have been embossed either "NONE" or "NO PREFERENCE" where the religion info would normally be found. I don't put "ATHEIST" there, since trying to pigeonhole atheism, "no faith at all," or "superstitionless" as a religion is just a silly notion proposed by the religious. It's tantamount to trying to measure zero. As a CO, OIC, or other leader, I would never have tolerated any such discrimination, if experienced by my peers or subordinates, any more than I would have tolerated racial or gender bias. PERIOD. I believe in the American dream and I fully support the Constitution's freedom of religion aspects, which clearly means freedom from religion, too.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Ashmore
Specialty: Sonar Technician Submarines
Dates of Service: August 12, 1997 to Present
Decorations: Navy and Marine Corp Achievment Medal (3 Awards), Navy Good Conduct (3 Awards), Battle Effeciency "E" Award (5 Awards), National Defense Service Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Expert Rifle Medal, Expert Pistol Medal, Submarine Warfare, Deep Submergence Insignia, Trident Patrol Pin
Tours of duty: USS Michigan SSBN 727 (Gold Crew) - August 18, 1998 to March 17, 2003, USS Dolphin AGSS 555 - March 27, 2003 to March 5, 2005, Michigan SSGN 727 (Conversion Crew) April 5, 2005 to Present.
Army Sergeant Ernesto Haibi
Specialty: Combat Medic
Dates of Service: 1986-1991 Air Force, 1991-Present Army
Decorations: Army Commendation w/cluster, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Overseas Service, Reserve Overseas Training, Florida Service Medal, Korean Defense Medal, Non-Commisioned Officers Professional Development, Army Service
Tours of duty: B Co 1-23 In March 2004 to October 2004 Mosul, Iraq
If there is one place you should depend on training and not the invisible man it's combat. There you need to depend on the tangible world and it's aid in survival. Instead of praying I just pay attention during training. The Christian religion is dug in like a tick in the Army. I have Muslims, Hindu's, and Budhists as well as more atheists than you might think in my unit that act like they don't care but it's hard to hear that they feel alienated during every ceremony and training event that talks of "God" when we all know it means the Christian god.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Carol Proctor
Specialty: Personnel Admin
Dates of Service: 16 Jun 93 to present/2 May 05 to present (civil service)
Decorations: AFAM 2 oakleaf clusters
Tours of duty: ctive Duty - Plattsburg AFB 16 Jun 03 to 17 Mar 05, Nellis AFB 17 Mar 05 to 28 Oct 00, Wright Patterson AFB 28 Oct 00 to 29 Nov 00 USAFR - Wright Patterson AFB 1 Jan 03 to Sep 3 05. USAFR at Peterson AFB 1 Oct 00 to present and Civil Service at the USAF Academy from 2 May 05 to present Specialty Health Service Management (4A051) 16 Jun 03 to 01 May 97 and Personnel Management (3S071) 02 May 97 to present
I only had one discriminating experience as a nonbeliever that effected my career. It was at Wright Patt and I thought my supervisor accepted my beliefs as she was a "good Christian". She never spoke negative and always listened to why I didn't believe and explained why she was a Christian and seemed sincere, but of course when my annual EPR was due, a month before it was due she became secretive and wouldn't let me see my OPR before she completed it and she in the process moved to another position. (I handled all EPR's/OPR's and decorations so it should have come across my desk). When you go from the last 3 years getting "firewall 5's" and go down to a 4 it's a big let down. Plus she had the new commander sign it instead of the commander I worked under (she waited for him to PCS) and after she moved offices when she saw me she would avoid me at all costs - although I couldn't prove it I know in my heart it was because I wasn't Christian. I feel prayer in combat has it's place in the Chapels on base only, if someone wants a prayer at their retirement or promotion that should be allowed but not a Holiday Parties, in the office or at group promotions. Religion should be private and not forced on anyone. My husband and I sponsor non-religious, atheists, agnostic and freethinking Cadets here at the USAF Academy so they can have a break from the military environment and be around other non-believers.
Air Force Master Sergeant Paul Bailey
Dates of Service: as appropriate: July 87 to Present
Decorations: AF, Joint Service Achievement, AF Commendation (3), AF Meritorious Service Medal
Tours of duty: Korea 89-90, 95-98, 01-02
I'm fighting my own little battle in the Air Force at the moment. Our higher headquarters commander mandated that everyone must wear an "Airman's Badge", with a list of things that each of us is supposed to pledge. The badge includes the text, "I pledge...to be spiritually ready." I have taken issue with this line, as all references to "spiritual" I can find invoke religion or the supernatural. I refuse to make this "pledge".
Army National Guard Specialist Carl Webb
Dates of Service: Off and on from 1982 until now.
Most of the time they refused to put atheist on my dog tags or any official documents. In boot camp while the other recruits got the day off to go to the chapel I had to stay in the barracks and clean. http://carlwebb.net/militarycareer.html
Navy Seaman Michael Des Armo
Dates of Service: 13 OCT 2004 - present
Decorations: Battle "e", Global War, Global War on terrorism, Global War on terrorism expeditionary, National Defense, Sea Service Deployment
Tours of duty: US Combat Deployment 12JAN2005-31JUL2005. With tour in Middle East during Maritime operation from March 2005 to July 2005.
Army National Guard Private Evgeny Zolotarev
Dates of Service: May 2005 - current
I'm about to get deployed in Kosovo. I went to some religious services during Basic. I can't remember exactly what the chaplain told us about those who do not admit these ceremonies, but basically it was something like they are going to hell. Another thing, when I asked him about other religions - he said, why bother, if we KNOW that our faith is true. The other guys around me looked at me like as if I asked something so ridiculously stupid. I had doubts about Christianity at that time, but not anymore. I chose to live with no gods. I can't know for sure that there is no god. I choose not to believe in god, as long as there is not enough evidence of his existence. Christianity gives no answers, but feeling of guilt. I realize now that it actually does spread hatred among people. Now that I studied Christianity a little, I just can't believe that there was time when I actually accepted it.
Army Reserve Major Joseph Gerstein
Dates of Service: 1965-71
Army Reserve 1st Lieutenant James Johnson
Specialty: Military Police
Dates of Service: as appropriate: 1987-1998 (Active) 1998-present (Reserve)
Decorations: Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal (3), Army Achievement Medal (5) National Defense Service Medal (2), Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon
Tours of duty: ov 1987-Mar 1988 E 2-58 INF (T) Ft Benning, Mar 1988-Sep 1990 A Co 4-17 INF, 7 ID(L) Ft Ord, Sep 1990-Dec 1990 40th MP BN (AIT), Ft McClellan, Dec 1990-May 1992 HQ & A Co, 9-1 ASB, Katterbach, GE (Desert Storm), May 1992-Mar 1998 3d MP Co/1st MP Co, Wuerzburg, GE, Mar 1998-Present 309th SC (RAOC), Hanau/Wiesbaden, GE (OIF)
I am proud to say I did not invoke the name of their god one time while I was in Iraq. Yelled goddam (as in "GODDAM! THAT WAS CLOSE!") a lot though....
Air National Guard Tech Sergeant Kirk England
Specialty: AGE Technician
Dates of Service: as appropriate: 01 AUG 86 - Present
Decorations: Commendation, Acheivement, NATO, War on Terror
Tours of duty: RAF Bentwaters/Woodbridge Feb. '87 - Jun, '90, Ohio ANG '90-Jul '92, AZANG Jul '92 - Present
I have volunteered for Iraq and Afganistan. I click my pen repeatedly and loudly during prayers at the start of meetings. The last time I had to do that was in 2002. I believe I was passed over for a promotion in 2000 because my supervisor at that time was a big-time Catholic and he knew I was a big-time Atheist. This is a quote from him, nothing religious, but see if it makes sense to you: "Kirk you've got two college degrees, you've done all of your Professional Military Education In-Residence (very rare in the Guard) and you are currently teaching PME part-time at DM (Davis-Monthan AFB). So, for what it's worth, you have an unfair promotional advantage and it is my job to level the playing field. Therefore, I am not going to select you to go before the State Promotion Board." The two guys selected didn't do anything other than kiss his butt and show up to work, so maybe the butt-kissing had more to do with it. I never said to anybody at work how much of an idiot he seemed walking around all day on Ash Wednesdays with a cross smeared on his forehead.
Army Captain Jay Williams
Dates of Service: as appropriate 1990-present
Decorations: 4 Army Commendation Medals, 4 Army Achievement Medals, 2 Army Service Ribbons, NCO Professional Development Ribbon with numerical device (2), 2 Overseas Ribbons, 2 National Defense Service Medals, Humanitarian Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal. Member of Audie Murphy and Sergeant Morals Clubs.
As an atheist I accept death as a natural part of life. Therefore, I have no irrational fears of dying that require the help of a supernatural being to soothe; this will not change in combat. I have found the military decidedly biased towards christianity and have suffered discrimination and been forced to endure religious experiences against my will. The army is primarily protestant christian and for all its lip service to equality and equal opportunity, it really only applies if you tow the line and act like a good christian. Mounting a serious challenge to the religious majority would surely result in being severely ostracized and very likely end your career. Contrary to their claims, military religionists are no more tolerant of opposing view points than religionists elsewhere.
Army Master Sergeant James Schweizer
Dates of Service: Nov 1962-Dec 1984
Decorations: Bronze Star for Meritorious Achievement (Vietnam Aug 66-Aug 68)3 awards of Meritorious Service Medal, 2 awards Army Commendation Medal, 1 award Army Achievement medal award , Vietnam service medals, good conduct medals
Tours of duty: C Co 2nd Bn 35th Inf 25th Inf Div Hawaii 63-65, 525th MI, Vietnam (An Loc) Aug 66-Aug 68 1St SFG, Okinawa, with duty in Jakarta 70-71, 115th MI Gp, SF CA 71-74, Brooke Army Medical Center, SA TX 74-77 Ft Jackson SC (Drill Sgt)77-79, 2nd Gen Hosp, Landstuhl Germany 79-83, Brooke Army Medical Center, SA TX 83-85
Had Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Korean language training with close association with asian cultures. Wife is Chinese Buddhist. Served in small province capital in Vietnam for 2 years, while no where to the extend of those in direct combat arms, did come under fire frequently. Cannot remeber ever "praying". Served as NCOIC for outpatient psychiatry and psychology service in Landstuhl and BAMC, deling with wide range of behavioral problems, saw clearly non-religious basis for human behavior.
Army Private 1st Class Kevin Snyder
Specialty: Transportation Managment Coordinator, Supply Spec
Dates of Service: 28 SEP 2004
Decorations: Several COR's, Global War on terrorisim, OIF Ribbon, 1st coscom combat patch
Tours of duty: 11 SEP 05 to present OIF
Navy Reserve Lieutenant Commander Jim Heldberg
Dates of Service: 1959 - 1978, my ship landed the first US troops into Vietnam
Decorations: Vietnam combat ribbon
Civil Air Patrol Major Timothy Smith
Specialty: Air Search and Rescue
Dates of Service: As Cadet Nov 1995-Feb 2001, As Officer Feb 2001-Current
Decorations: Loening Award Medal, NCC Medal (earned as cadet), Red Service Medal (2 clasps), Mitchell Award, CAC Ribbon, Encampment Medal (1 clasp), Leadership Medal, Senior-level Search&Rescue Ground Team Badge, others.
Tours of duty: Cadet 1995-2001, Aerospace Education Officer 2001-2002, Unit Historian 2001-2004, DDR Officer 2002-2003, Leadership Officer 2003-current. OIC for multiple activities including NCO Academy and Drill Teams.
As a member of the Auxiliary, I train cadets and participate in Search&Rescue. In my duties, not once have I sought the assistance of any power beyond that of myself and my staff. I do get quite upset however when event coordinators or activity commanders ask "which" sunday service I will be attending, rather than "if" ....
Army Sergeant Steven Rinestine
Air Force Tech Sergeant Kevin Wood
Specialty: Optometry Craftsman
Marine Sergeant Christopher Lowry
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Dreidel
Specialty: Machinist's Mate, Nuclear
Air Force Airman Adam Snyder
Specialty: Computer Operator
Air Force Captain Jeffrey Pixley
Air National Guard Captain Norman Wiggins
Specialty: aircraft mechanic
Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Keith Krejci
Specialty: Air Traffic Controller
Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Bryce Batchman
Air Force Major Eric Lewan
Specialty: Pilot AC130U Navigator
Air Force Major Todd Dart
Specialty: Aerospace Physiology
Air Force Master Sergeant JT Talbot
Specialty: Aircraft Maintenance
Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Jillian Looman
Specialty: Aviation Mgt
Air Force Senior Airman Gary Egelston
Specialty: Base Operations
Air Force Senior Airman Geoffrey Gould
Air Force Senior Airman Leta McCabe
Air Force Staff Sergeant Justin Buchholz
Specialty: Security Forces
Air Force Reserve Staff Sergeant Ryan Cooper
Specialty: Weapons Instructor
Army Captain Aimee Mowry
Army Master Sergeant Kathleen Johnson
Specialty: Criminal Investigations
Civilian Civilian Kevin Rohm
Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Bertha
Army Sergeant Jack Pollard
Army Sergeant John Travise
Army National Guard Sergeant Jonnie Bentz
Army Reserve Specialist Cory Ann Ellis
Army Staff Sergeant Travis Ova
Specialty: Aircraft Mechanic
Army Specialist Wayne Moore
Specialty: Aviation Mechanic
Army Staff Sergeant Chris Andersen
Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Kantor
Specialty: Signals Intelligence Electornic Warfare Analyst
Marine Lance Corporal Trish Gaskins
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Amanda Mancuso
Specialty: Information Systems Tech
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samuel Klein
Specialty: Data Analyst
Air Force Airman Edward Clint
Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Rajah Grady
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Rice
Specialty: Nuclear Machine
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tony Irwin
Specialty: Firecontrolman Second Class Petty Officer
Army Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Challans
Air Force Reserve Colonel Claudia Ziebis
Specialty: Public Affairs
Air Force Staff Sergeant Jared Ozvath
Air Force Staff Sergeant Joe Odom
Air Force Master Sergeant Michael McCoy
Specialty: Security Forces
Air Force Staff Sergeant Steven Parradee
Air Force Tech Sergeant Jeffrey Huffman
Army 1st Lieutenant Wayne Adkins
Specialty: Infantry, Armor, Public Affairs Officer
Army Captain Chad Hetman
Army Private 1st Class John Gruhn
Army Specialist Brad Stuckey
Army National Guard Specialist Nic Jordan
Specialty: 96R MI
Army Staff Sergeant Ronald Sims
Specialty: Adjutant General
Navy Seaman Kenneth A. Perry
Specialty: Aviation Ordnance