So, a military commander, described to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) as “some sort of evangelical Protestant who believes his first priority is to coerce anyone he works with, especially those of us lower in rank, to accept and become baptized into his Christian faith,” wanted to have a traditional “Puritan” Thanksgiving.
At this commander’s Thanksgiving event, which was to be mandatory for his subordinates, “Puritan Pilgrim Prayers” would be read and all those under his command were to dress up in Pilgrim attire — all, that is, except for the Native American guy in the unit. He was told to wear his “best Indian clothes.” Yes, because a Native American service member would of course have a closet full of “Indian clothes” that they wear to kick back in when they’re off duty.
This “very ‘loud’ Christian” commander, writes the Native American service member, who was advised to contact MRFF by a Christian buddy in his unit, claims to have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower. Apparently this commander, in addition to being an offensive jackass, is a history ignoramus who doesn’t know that the Pilgrims weren’t Puritans, but Separatists, and that the Puritans didn’t come over until a decade later. But, why let history get in the way of making everybody read those “Puritan Pilgrim Prayers!”
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that MRFF has had a Native American service member whose commander wanted them to dress up as an Indian for Thanksgiving. In 2019, another Bible-thumping commander wanted a Native American subordinate to dress up as an Indian for their ““Pilgrim Heritage” event, as an ”historical accuracy matter.” MRFF got that event canceled.
And, as you’ll read in the following email from MRFF’s current client asked to dress up as an Indian, his commander’s “Puritan Pilgrim” event has likewise been canceled by his superior, with the added bonus of the offensive commander getting reamed out for muttering that his superior was “woke” loudly enough that his superior heard him.
From: (Active Duty MRFF Military Client’s e-mail address withheld)
Subject: We thank the MRFF for saving Thanksgiving
Date: November 12, 2023 at 3:42:27 PM MST
To: Information Weinstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Mikey Weinstein and the Staff of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,
I am sorry I didn’t write this proper thank you note sooner to you all but we have been engaged in combat training maneuvers for the last several days and this is my first time to write you all.
I am an active duty U.S.military member stationed at a large military installation in the CONUS (Continental United States).
I am also a highly decorated combat veteran who has deployed multiple times to the Middle East and have more than one Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge and a Bronze Star among other earned combat medals.
I have personally engaged in and experienced more than enough combat including hand-to-hand for this lifetime at least.
I am also a proud fully enrolled Member of the (Native American tribe name withheld) tribe.
Our immediate commander is a very “loud” Christian who wears his faith on his sleeve. He is some sort of evangelical Protestant who believes his first priority is to coerce anyone he works with, especially those of us lower in rank, to accept and become baptized into his Christian faith.
We try to ignore it but that is difficult. He is our commander and it’s not easy to confront him about this abuse of his rank used as a tool to get us into his Christian church.
But we can’t ignore it anymore.
Recently, he decided that our entire unit would “celebrate” Thanksgiving with a full traditional meal at lunchtime but with a twist. This event was to be mandatory.
Everyone was supposed to wear “Pilgrim period attire”. Our commander claims that one of his relatives was on the original Mayflower which landed at Plymouth Rock. He said he wanted to “celebrate" the “true essence” of Thanksgiving by having everybody recite several “Puritan Pilgrim Prayers” before we sat down to eat. Then he did something while announcing this which made me sick to my stomach.
Everyone knows I’m (Native American tribe name withheld). Our commander asked me to wear my best “Indian clothes” at this Thanksgiving event to “represent the role of Indians at this first Thanksgiving."
I was appalled. Many of my fellow combat unit members were shocked.
My wife was hurt. She is also Native American but from another tribe than mine.
One of my unit buddies who happens to be a very devout Christian himself advised me to call Mr. Weinstein at the MRFF. It turns out that his next door neighbor is the MRFF representative for (installation name withheld).
Anyways, I called Mikey Weinstein and he advised me that this same kind of crap happens a lot especially around the Holiday time of year. He was easy to talk to and made both me and my wife feel a lot better. He told me that the MRFF had handled another situation very similar to mine just a few years ago.
Mikey gave me the option to go up my own chain of command or he said that he’d do it for us if we wished.
He sent me the MRFF news story of that other similar infraction from a few years ago. After reading it my wife and I decided to go to my commander’s boss with the complaint. I knew that the MRFF had our backs no matter what happened.
Long story short, my commander’s boss held a meeting in his office with me, the XO and our commander within a few hours of me asking for it. I brought copies for everybody of the prior similar matter from a few years ago which the MRFF had handled for another Native American client.
The big boss looked it over closely and asked our commander why he was having everyone dress up for this Thanksgiving meal event. The answer our commander gave was “to make it more fun for everyone”which was bullshit. He wanted to have everyone’s full attention on those Pilgrim prayers at the very start.
The big boss did not even try to get me to explain why I was offended by my commander’s order for me to “wear Indian clothes”. He knew it was obvious. He told our commander that having a Thanksgiving event is fine but not when it is structured to demean the ethnicities and religious views of some troops while at the same time advancing the personal religious views of others. He told our commander that if he wished to have such an event it needed to be inclusive of all participants especially as it was mandatory. If it could not be made inclusive the event would have to be canceled!
The look on my commander's face was anger mixed with contempt. As we left the office he muttered something negative about our senior commander being “woke”. The XO and I both heard it. So did our senior commander. He told the XO and I to go ahead and leave and then told our commander to stay and close the door.
We could hear our senior commander yelling at our commander very loudly. Not sure what was said but the XO and I just kept walking away. We could both tell that an ass-kicking was occurring!
Don’t know actually happened after that? We haven’t seen our commander as he "rather suddenly" put in for several days of leave. Nobody has seen him.
The commander’s “Pilgrim attire” event has now been officially cancelled and replaced with another unit Thanksgiving meal This event will be handled by higher command at our DFAC dining facility. No costumes will be required other than our military uniforms.
My wife and I wanted to thank Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF for successfully guiding me on the right way to approach this mess with my own chain of command. Had never dealt with something as personal to my heritage before as this.
We have yet to get any sort of response from our commander. However, we know that if there is any attempt by him to even try to jack me up for having the MRFF help me work with my chain of command to fix this thing, the MRFF will be there immediately!
My wife and kids and I all thank Mr. Weinstein, our local MRFF rep and all of the MRFF staff for everything you do everyday to help our troops fight for America!
(Active Duty MRFF Military Client’s name, rank, MOS/AFSC, unit and installation names all withheld)