Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Hunger Games coming to Okinawa, Anniversary, and Shabbat all coinciding in the same few days: there are a lot of things that I could write about. I choose Chanukah – but only in a peripheral way.
I come to celebrate the shamash: the uncelebrated candle that doesn’t count, that stands apart from the other candles.
Fact: We are not permitted to make use of the light from the chanukiyah, we can only look at them in appreciation of the miracles of Chanukah. BUT the Shamash can be used to light anything, we can keep warm by its heat, we can use it to heat up leftover Turkey (if its big enough). Shamash is the term that synagogues in Europe into modernity called the person who kept everything running. Today, I salute the shamash.
Like the shamash of yore, the job of Religious Program Specialist is not the glamorous job that many think of as a great naval rating. Some choose it. Others are chosen by it (and not in the way that many refer to “a calling”, more like a “this is your job, suck it up” kind of thing). Designed as a track of the Yeoman rating, Religious Program Specialists serve an administrative function. They ensure that chapels are properly maintained, and they are in charge of making sure the tzedakah box gets put into the right hands.
An RP is a shamash with an M4 and about 200 rounds. The RP provides physical protection to the chaplain who is not allowed to bear arms. But more than that: When we went to Afghanistan, RP2 Worth not only protected me but during services ensured the protection of all those who came to pray.
An RP is part of the team. Not the same job as chaplain, but an imbedded person who Marines and Sailors can vent to and not feel that they are imposing on “the sir”. A good RP steers people to the chaplain when the time arises. He’s not a counselor. But he’s part of the team.
Today was a little rough for me, because half of my team is leaving the Navy. I know that John M. Worth is going to succeed in finishing college (because if he doesn’t I will kill him). I know that he is going to be an amazing aide to his father and mother who certainly miss him. I know that anybody who commits a crime in Norfolk once he enters the police force there will seriously regret it. And I know that someday he will be able to answer to his given name and not only “RP”, but for me, he will always be RP.
When things get crazy at the Battalion, I know that we will weather it all together. When I get the official report of what happened over the weekend, I know that the real and unofficial report will be more awesome when delivered by RP on Monday morning. When the call came to go to Afghanistan, I never felt a real threat because RP was going to be with me. He is truly a good soul, and I hope the nice good Christian girls at Chowan read this letter of recommendation from a rabbi and recognize that he’s a good catch.
Good luck, RP. Both Leora and I will miss you.