CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Chaplain (Capt.) Danny Black drew from the Bible and the Soldier’s Creed as he prayed for Soldiers at a drive-in National Day of Prayer observance here May 14.
“Lord, grant our Soldiers in the medical profession the warrior spirit of King David, as we stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the invisible enemy named COVID-19,” said Black, chaplain for the 311th Intelligence Battalion. “With your help, we shall prevail.”
Black spoke from a stage in the parking lot of the Camp Zama Community Club with more than 50 vehicles in front of him, each spaced one parking place apart to promote social distancing. The occupants had tuned their radios to FM 88.9 so they could hear the speakers, who focused on creating resilience in the face of the virus.
“Lord, on this National Day of Prayer, the obvious concern on our minds for everyone is the pandemic,” said Col. Tony Petros, U.S. Army Japan command chaplain. “We ask that you would heal those who are struggling with the virus, strengthen our first responders, our doctors, nurses and service members who are all on the front lines providing care.”
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Alan Irizarry, operations chaplain for U.S. Army Japan, also prayed about the virus.
“Even as we are asked to keep our distance from others, help us to find ways to reach out to those who need our support,” Irizarry said during his prayer for peace.
Occupants got out of their vehicles only once, so they could show respect during the United States and Japanese national anthems. The lunch-hour event included sandwiches, chips, a cookie and water for attendees.
The guest speaker, Reverend Koichi Hirano, 76, pastor at the Tokyo Horizon Chapel in Machida, spoke about the power of believing in the positive, recounting how he decided 17 years ago that he would never get sick because the Holy Spirit lives inside his body, and hasn’t been sick since.
“The Bible says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from death, you shall be saved,” Hirano said. “… I constantly speak at my church: ‘People, I never get sick.’ Now, people are beginning to believe, and I believe that maybe my theory is right. So far it has worked the last 17 years.”
Hirano said stress harms people’s immune systems, so it is important to have good feelings all the time, embracing peace, joy, gratitude, compassion, love, happiness and laughter.
Instead of applause at the end of Hirano’s speech, people honked their horns in approval.
President Harry S. Truman proclaimed the first National Day of Prayer in 1952 so a broad presentation of all religions could focus on praying for the nation, according to the Army. The day does not endorse one religion or service, and is different from the National Prayer Breakfast, which takes place in February.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Don Ehrke, chaplain for U.S. Army Garrison Japan, kicked off the event by noting the long history of prayer in the United States military.
“In the military we remember that General Washington prayed for the troops at Valley Forge and we remember that Abraham Lincoln as the commander in chief prayed for the union during the Civil War, but we also remember all of the Soldiers who prayed on countless battlefields across history,” Ehrke said. “For them, we are gathered in their memory.”
Ehrke highlighted that due to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which provides for the free exercise of religion, the Army places a high value on the rights of Soldiers to observe their respective religions.
“We remember that one of the great freedoms that we have in our nation is the freedom to pray or not to pray, to worship or not to worship,” Ehrke said. “No one can tell us what god we have to pray to. No one can complain if we bow our heads, and so we come to celebrate that freedom.”
In addition to the speakers, members of the Camp Zama Praise Team performed for the audience, and Staff Sgt. Dnard Edwards, vocalist with the U.S. Army Japan Band, sang the Japanese national anthem, and Erin Nonaka, a member of the Camp Zama Summit Praise Team, sang the U.S. national anthem.
In accordance with the singing of both national anthems, Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Johnston, chaplain for the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, asked that everyone present serve as an example to all nations that former mortal enemies can be allies and even friends.
“We ask that you give the people of goodwill in every nation the desire and the ability to reach out with reason and with kindness, sincerity and hope as we follow your guidance to build a world in keeping with your will,” Johnston prayed.