Nov. 15—Under the banner “In Pursuit of Peace Through the Oneness of Mentor and Disciple,” members and guests across the nation joined the SGI-USA Military Personnel Group webinar on the heels of Veterans Day.
The meeting commenced with exciting news that, on Sept. 2, the 75th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, and in honor of Ikeda Sensei’s “lifelong pursuit of peace and 60 years of American Kosen-rufu,” the American flag was raised at two historic landmarks: the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial, both located in Honolulu. Also introduced were challenge coins to be gifted to Sensei, including one engraved with the SGI-USA Military Personnel Group’s motto, “In Pursuit of Peace,” and the opening lines of Sensei’s novels The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, both expressing his vow for peace.
The SGI-USA Military Personnel Group Co-leaders, Diana Fleek and Rex Taylor, presented on the group’s purpose and activities. The group supports people in the SGI-USA community who are active duty service members, retirees and veterans. They also focus on holding weekly introductory meetings at over 40 military installations, where hundreds of young recruits learn the basics of Nichiren Buddhism and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
“We know that many of these young men and women will be deployed throughout their military careers, and it is our prayer and determination that all of these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are protected by embracing this humanistic philosophy,” Mr. Taylor said.
Another highlight of the meeting was the powerful faith experiences shared by Marine Corps Sgt. Adam Dippre in Virginia; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Samantha Rathbun in Nevada; and Brig. Gen. Michele LaMontagne, the first female commander in the history of the New Mexico National Guard.
A panel discussion was also held and moderated by active duty sailor Brandon Card, who was introduced to the SGI-USA during Navy Basic Training. Based on Sensei’s book Hope Is a Decision, the panelists addressed such topics as viewing their role as Buddhists in the military and creating hope.
The webinar closed with words from SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss, who expressed his appreciation for the indispensable contributions of U.S. military personnel.
Mr. Strauss shared his insight that the U.S. flag’s 50 stars can correspond to the unparalleled joy of spreading Buddhism, emphasizing that as Buddhist teachings spread from person to person, “the power of the Law is undimmed—unchanged—even out to the 50th transmission.”
General director Strauss concluded: “The best way to transform our lives, generate limitless joy and address the suffering and division we see in our society is to strengthen our life state and share Buddhism to the best of our ability. Together, let’s actualize the profound meaning of the 50th transmission of the teaching.”
—Prepared by the World Tribune staff
Voices from the Military Personnel Group
San Diego, California
I’m currently training to get into a special program, on top of my work, personal life and SGI activities. But I want to look back at this time and say with confidence that I did everything I possibly could have, like the members who shared on our meeting. I refuse to take shortcuts because I know that I’m building the foundation for my life.
As we were about to raise the American flag toward this webinar, the USS Arizona Memorial and Punchbowl Cemetery closed due to the pandemic. But someone recognized me at both places and went out of their way to fly it in honor of Ikeda Sensei. If just one young private was able to see our victories and realize that Buddhism works, then this webinar was a success.
I wanted to quit the Navy, but with my Buddhist practice, I battled my tendency to complain. Emceeing the webinar, I felt I had won over myself as I finish my contract and victoriously conclude my military service. I’m determined to see the American military overflowing with countless bodhisattvas as we work to create genuine peace.