108th Artillery Group

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Addendum to The 108th Artillery Group Chaplain Diary

 Section added with the permission of (Former Chaplain) Frank Breslau

 I was fascinated by Chaplain Neely's Diary.  It brought back many memories. I am the Jewish Chaplain that he so graciously refers to in visiting the Brigade and it was a pleasure working with him. But there is a little epilogue associated with my visit.

When I arrived on Friday, I went to the mess sergeant (cook) of the 108th Artillery Brigade. Keeping kosher in Vietnam was quite a challenge and I asked him if he had any tuna fish, salmon or sardines because that was all I could eat. He said that he had worked at a kosher kitchen at the army base in Heidelberg Germany and was familiar with the rules of keeping kosher.  He prepared a very nice tuna fish platter with some raw fruit and vegetables for that meal and for lunch the following day.  At the Saturday afternoon lunch, the rest of the brigade had a steak barbecue which was quite unusual considering that they were located less than 5 miles south of the demilitarized zone.

When I got back to my headquarters, I wanted to write a thank you letter to the sergeant (imagine, no e-mail, texting, tweeting, etc.!) Instead, I had my assistant write a letter to the brigade commander. In paragraph 1, I detailed how in all of my travels, no one ate any better than this brigade ESPECIALLY considering their location. In paragraph 2, I said that such efforts should not go un-rewarded and that the mess sergeant should be promoted.

I put together the following on my next visit.  The brigade commander received the letter and ordered a brigade formation the next day. In front of the brigade, he had the mess sergeant step forward and said that the Jewish Chaplain had visited a couple of weeks ago and had written a letter to him. The poor sergeant was thinking, "I treated him nicely, why did he write a nasty letter about me?"  After reading the letter, he said that I had hit the nail on the head and called his adjutant forward to read the promotion order.  The sergeant was dumbfounded and everybody cheered.

Being unaware of what had happened, I went to the sergeant and asked if he had any tuna fish, salmon or sardines.  In as stern voice, he asked me which one did I want?  I told him it was immaterial whereupon he produced 3 beautiful platters full of fresh fruit and vegetables - one of each.  He showed me his new chevrons on an otherwise faded set of green fatigues.  He told me the story and that after the ceremony, he went to the chapel and told them he wanted advance notice of my next visit or he would poison all of them!  The promotion meant he could stay an extra 2 years in the army and would retire with a larger pension.

My father taught me to always acknowledge someone who does something nice for you.  Needless to say,  Don Neely's story made MY day.

(Former Chaplain) Frank Breslau

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