Warfighter support for religious observances has come a long way since the Gulf War, according to the Defense Logistics Agency’s chaplain.
Army Col. Richard Quinn recalls driving hours into the Saudi Arabian desert in 1991 to acquire basic items for Jewish service members observing Passover.
“It wasn’t much, just matzo and gefilte fish, but they were happy to have it,” he said.
Warfighters serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait today receive kosher grape juice, shmura matzo and Passover Seder dinner kits, and palms and special dinners for Easter, thanks to the efforts of two of DLA Troop Support’s supply chains.
According to DLA Troop Support Subsistence records, employees have provided more than 6,100 lbs. of beef, 8,600 lbs. of Cornish hen, 6,400 lbs. of ham and nearly 12,000 pies and cakes in observance of Easter to service members in Afghanistan.
More than 480 cases of kosher for Passover meals were provided to military members serving across the globe.
DLA Troop Support Clothing and Textiles employees ensured service members had everything they need for religious observances.
"We provide the U.S. military with worldwide support for their religious needs or practices," Maryann Santos, an ecclesiastical team customer account specialist said. "During the Passover and Easter season, we are on high alert to provide them with these specialized items which are highly perishable and hard to get items within Seder kits."
A number of items included in the Seder kit are harder to procure due to lack of demand, Santos said.
"The charoset is the most difficult," Santos said, referring to a fruit and nut mixture. "The commercial industry does not find it feasible to make since it is only used during Passover and is simple to make at home.”
DLA Troop Support Clothing and Textiles manages about 750 ecclesiastical or religious items, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim perishable items, books, medals and clothing. Congregation pews, lecterns, religious books, and Torah scrolls are examples of some of the ecclesiastical and religious items the supply chain provides. It begins taking orders for the religious items as early as October, Santos said.
Providing for the religious needs of service members is a vital mission, Quinn said. Whether at home or deployed, DLA Troop Support provides needed items for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to worship as they would at home.