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New SGOMA Podcast Episode availible on Ancient Faith Radio February 5, 2011

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View Podcast PageReflections of a USAF Orthodox Chaplain – Part 1

February 02, 2011 Length: 17:55

In this episode of SGOMA’s Podcast series “Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” Father Stephan Close reflects on his time as an active duty Orthodox Chaplain serving in the United States Air Force. Fr. Stephan reflects on the many military members that he came across during his most recent assignment at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

To listen to Fr. Stephan’s podcast please go to: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frontlines/reflections_of_a_usaf_orthodox_chaplain_part_1

Pentagon Pushes Veterans to Claim Stop-Loss Bonuses Before Deadline October 12, 2010

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ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE: U.S. soldiers stand guard as a medical helicopter arrives to evacuate a soldier who was seriously wounded when he stepped on an improvised mine in Kandahar province. (AP Photo)

From: FOXNEWS.com

Uncle Sam usually doesn’t have trouble finding folks to accept bonus checks.

But when it comes to giving $500 per month in retroactive pay to troops and veterans who were forced to stay in the military beyond their enlistment terms during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the U.S. government hasn’t gotten the participation it expected.

Service members, veterans and beneficiaries of service members whose service was involuntarily extended between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009, under the controversial “stop-loss” program are eligible for the additional payout. The average benefit is $3,800.

One problem: Only 62,000 of the 145,000 entitled to receive the stop-loss payments from a pool of $534.4 million have collected, leaving 83,000 left to claim $300 million.

Those who voluntarily re-enlisted or extended their service and received a bonus are not eligible.

In June 2009, President Obama signed into law the emergency supplemental war funding that included the retroactive bonuses. Since then, Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and members of Congress have filmed public service announcements to get the word out.

The Pentagon has also reached out to beneficiaries through multiple direct mailings, the Veterans Affairs Department, social networks, more than 100 military and veteran groups and the media, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez told FoxNews.com

Lainez said the direct mail is only having limited success because the letters are sent to the last known address for beneficiaries who may have relocated and some beneficiaries don’t open their mail.

Troops originally had until next week — Oct. 21 — to collect the money due to them, but several lawmakers pushed for an extension, and the deadline was pushed back to Dec. 3 as part of a continuing resolution approved by Congress last week.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., is now pushing to extend the deadline to Oct. 21, 2011.

“Last year, Congress helped fix an injustice by providing bonus payments to thousands of troops who were required to serve and sacrifice longer than their scheduled enlistment,” Lautenberg said in a written statement.

“But unless we make sure that as many service members as possible have been paid, the good intent will not be fully realized. An extension of the stop-loss claims deadline will give the Defense Department more time to reach out to the troops who served selflessly and remained in service long after they were scheduled to return home.”

The military, and mostly the Army, has relied on stop-loss since 2002 to keep soldiers in service in what critics called a de facto draft. The practice was aimed at continuity, Lainez said, because training new recruits to go into the battlefield while the U.S. was fighting two wars was both time-consuming and inefficient.

Of the 145,000 beneficiaries eligible for the back pay, 120,000 served in the Army. The Army plans to phase out stop-loss assignments by March 2011, Lainez said.

Lainez said the Defense Department won’t just mail out checks to eligible troops.

“Besides the fact that they have to apply, it wouldn’t be prudent to send $534 million in checks to last known addresses that are years old,” she said.

Lainez advised that beneficiaries apply online because the process moves much more quickly.

Individuals eligible for the bonus can visit http://www.defense.gov/stoploss for more information.

State of Orthodoxy in the U.S. Armed Forces October 8, 2010

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Orthodox Military Saints for October October 5, 2010

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Oct. 1st – The Protection of the Most-holy Theotokos

The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them not go away from my icon unheard.”

Sts Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under

(October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin monastery) In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”

Oct. 2ndSt. Theodore (Ushakov) the Righteous Admiral

St Theodore, one of Russia’s greatest naval heroes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was born in 1745.

The unvanquished Admiral was the terror of his country’s enemies, and the deliverer of those whom the barbarians had taken captive. He served during the Russo-Turkish War (1787 – 1791), and also fought against the French. Although he fought many naval battles in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean, he never lost a single one, and he was never wounded.

St Theodore once visited the Greek island of Kerkyra (Corfu), where he venerated the relics of St Spyridon of Tremithus (December 12), and gave support and encouragement to the Orthodox Christians in that place.

Since his naval reforms were unpopular with his superiors, St Theodore was forced to retire in 1807 by Tsar Alexander I. Having neither wife nor children, the admiral settled in the town of Alekseevo near the Sanaxar Monastery, where he regularly attended services on Sundays and Feast Days. During Great Lent he would stay in the monastery, fasting with the monks and attending the services.

Igumen Nathaniel of Sanaxar regarded St Theodore as “a neighbor and a significant patron” of the monastery. In addition to his generous gifts to the monastery, the admiral frequently gave alms to the poor and needy. He never sought earthly glory or riches, but spent his life in serving God and his neighbor.

St Theodore died in 1817 at the age of seventy-two. After navigating the sea of life with all its storms and struggles, he entered the calm harbor of eternal rest. He was buried at Sanaxar Monastery beside the church. The monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, and St Theodore’s grave was found in 1994.

St Theodore was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Russia in 2004, and a reliquary in the shape of a naval vessel was made to enshrine his holy relics.

The holy Admiral Theodore should not be confused with his relative St Theodore (Ushakov) of Sanaxar Monastery (February 19 and April 21), a monastic saint who lived from 1719 to 1791.

St Theodore is honored as a great military leader who defended Russia just as St Alexander Nevsky (November 23) and St Demetrius of the Don (May 19) did before him. One of the Russian Navy’s atomic cruisers has been named for him, and a movie has been made about his life and career. The composer Khachaturian has also written a musical piece called “Admiral Ushakov.”

Oct. 16th – The Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion

The Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion, a Roman soldier, served in Judea under the command of the Governor, Pontius Pilate. When our Savior Jesus Christ was crucified, it was the detachment of soldiers under the command of Longinus which stood watch on Golgotha, at the very foot of the holy Cross. Longinus and his soldiers were eyewitnesses of the final moments of the earthly life of the Lord, and of the great and awesome portents that appeared at His death. These events shook the centurion’s soul. Longinus believed in Christ and confessed before everyone, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54).

According to Church Tradition, Longinus was the soldier who pierced the side of the Crucified Savior with a spear, and received healing from an eye affliction when blood and water poured forth from the wound.

After the Crucifixion and Burial of the Savior, Longinus stood watch with his company at the Sepulchre of the Lord. These soldiers were present at the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ. The Jews bribed them to lie and say that His disciples had stolen away the Body of Christ, but Longinus and two of his comrades refused to be seduced by the Jewish gold. They also refused to remain silent about the miracle of the Resurrection.

Having come to believe in the Savior, the soldiers received Baptism from the apostles and decided to leave military service. St Longinus left Judea to preach about Jesus Christ the Son of God in his native land (Cappadocia), and his two comrades followed him.

The fiery words of those who had actually participated in the great events in Judea swayed the hearts and minds of the Cappadocians; Christianity began quickly to spread throughout the city and the surrounding villages. When they learned of this, the Jewish elders persuaded Pilate to send a company of soldiers to Cappadocia to kill Longinus and his comrades. When the soldiers arrived at Longinus’s village, the former centurion himself came out to meet the soldiers and took them to his home. After a meal, the soldiers revealed the purpose of their visit, not knowing that the master of the house was the very man whom they were seeking. Then Longinus and his friends identified themselves and told the startled soldiers to carry out their duty.

The soldiers wanted to let the saints go and advised them to flee, but they refused to do this, showing their firm intention to suffer for Christ. The holy martyrs were beheaded, and their bodies were buried at the place where the saints were martyred. The head of St Longinus, however, was sent to Pilate.

Pilate gave orders to cast the martyr’s head on a trash-heap outside the city walls. After a while a certain blind widow from Cappadocia arrived in Jerusalem with her son to pray at the holy places, and to ask that her sight be restored. After becoming blind, she had sought the help of physicians to cure her, but all their efforts were in vain.

The woman’s son became ill shortly after reaching Jerusalem, and he died a few days later. The widow grieved for the loss of her son, who had served as her guide.

St Longinus appeared to her in a dream and comforted her. He told her that she would see her son in heavenly glory, and also receive her sight. He told her to go outside the city walls and there she would find his head in a great pile of refuse. Guides led the blind woman to the rubbish heap, and she began to dig with her hands. As soon as she touched the martyr’s head, the woman received her sight, and she glorified God and St Longinus.

Taking up the head, she brought it to the place she was staying and washed it. The next night, St Longinus appeared to her again, this time with her son. They were surrounded by a bright light, and St Longinus said, Woman, behold the son for whom you grieve. See what glory and honor are his now, and be consoled. God has numbered him with those in His heavenly Kingdom. Now take my head and your son’s body, and bury them in the same casket. Do not weep for your son, for he will rejoice forever in great glory and happiness.”

The woman carried out the saint’s instructions and returned to her home in Cappadocia. There she buried her son and the head of St Longinus. Once, she had been overcome by grief for her son, but her weeping was transformed into joy when she saw him with St Longinus. She had sought healing for her eyes, and also received healing of her soul.

Oct. 20th – Holy Great Martyr Artemius  (Feast day of the Founding of the Saint George Orthodox Military Association)

Holy Great Martyr Artemius of Antioch was a prominent military leader during the reigns of the emperor Constantine the Great (May 21), and his son and successor Constantius (337-361). Artemius received many awards for distinguished service and courage. He was appointed viceroy of Egypt. In this official position he did much for the spreading and strengthening Christianity in Egypt.

St Artemius was sent by the emperor Constantius to bring the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew from Patras, and the relics of the holy Apostle Luke from Thebes of Boeotia, to Constantinople. The holy relics were placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles beneath the table of oblation. The emperor rewarded him by making him ruler of Egypt.

The emperor Constantius was succeeded on the throne by Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian in his desire to restore paganism was extremely antagonistic towards Christians, sending hundreds to their death. At Antioch he ordered the torture of two bishops unwilling to forsake the Christian Faith.

During this time, St Artemius arrived in Antioch and publicly denounced Julian for his impiety. The enraged Julian subjected the saint to terrible tortures and threw the Great Martyr Artemius into prison. While Artemius was praying, Christ, surrounded by angels, appeared to him and said, “Take courage, Artemius! I am with you and will preserve you from every hurt which is inflicted upon you, and I already have prepared your crown of glory. Since you have confessed Me before the people on earth, so shall I confess you before My Heavenly Father. Therefore, take courage and rejoice, you shall be with Me in My Kingdom.” Hearing this, Artemius rejoiced and offered up glory and thanksgiving to Him.

On the following day, Julian demanded that St Artemius honor the pagan gods. Meeting with steadfast refusal, the emperor resorted to further tortures. The saint endured all without a single moan. The saint told Julian that he would be justly recompensed for his persecution of Christians. Julian became furious and resorted to even more savage tortures, but they did not break the will of the saint. Finally the Great Martyr Artemius was beheaded.

His relics were buried by Christians. After the death of St Artemius, his prophecy about Julian the Apostate’s impending death came true.

Julian left Antioch for a war with the Persians. Near the Persian city of Ctesiphon, Julian came upon an elderly Persian, who agreed to betray his countrymen and guide Julian’s army. The old man deceived Julian and led his army into the Karmanite wilderness, where there was neither food nor water. Tired from hunger and thirst, Julian’s army battled against fresh Persian forces.

Divine retribution caught up with Julian the Apostate. During the battle he was mortally wounded by an unseen hand and an unseen weapon. Julian groaned deeply said, “You have conquered, Galilean!” After the death of the apostate emperor, the relics of the Great Martyr Artemius were transferred with honor from Antioch to Constantinople.

St Artemius is invoked by those suffering from hernias.

Russia’s Orthodox Church priests to appear in Russian Army and Navy September 19, 2010

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An interesting short news blurb about our Orthodox Brothers in the Russian Military:

From: PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKI, September 19 (RIA Novosti)

Russia’s Orthodox Church priests will soon appear in the Russian army and navy to serve as military chaplains as Russian servicemen especially need spiritual support, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said on Sunday.

“By decision of the Russian president, the institution of military clergy is beginning to develop in Russia. So far we are making the first steps… But since a legal foundation has been laid, I hope that priests will soon appear in the army and the navy,” Patriarch Kirill said.

The patriarch met on Sunday with the personnel of the 16th squadron of Pacific Fleet submarines in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East.

According to the patriarch, servicemen need spiritual support.

“This is because risks linked with military service are so great that they cannot be compensated by any material benefits,” he said.

According to the Russian defense ministry, two thirds of the country’s servicemen consider themselves religious. Some 83% of them are Orthodox Christians, about 8% are Muslims, and 9% represent other confessions.

Latest Episode of SGOMA Podcast is availible on Ancient Faith Radio June 10, 2010

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The St. George’s Orthodox Military Association’s latest podcast episode of the “Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” is now available on Ancient Faith Radio. In this episode Fr. Anthony Perkins, a Retired U.S. Army Intel Officer, reflects on his deployment to Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11. To listen to the podcast click on the AFR link: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frontlines

About the Podcast:

“Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines – Dispatches from the St. George Orthodox Military Association”

The St. George Orthodox Military Association (SGOMA) hosts discussions on various topics related to our Orthodox Christian military men and women and their dependents serving in the United States. We feature special guests who are members of Saint George Orthodox Military Association, our courageous Orthodox military chaplains, and special interviews with our Troops, Sailors, Air Men, and Marines.

“Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” is now live, up and running on Ancient Faith Radio May 14, 2010

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SGOMA’s podcast series “Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” is now live, up and running on Ancient Faith Radio (www.ancientfaith.com). The initial episode is now available for listening. New episodes will air every other week. Look for the next episode on May 19th or 20th. This podcast series is also available on iTunes, just search for “Ancient Faith Radio” and then look for the “Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” podcast and subscribe to it to get all the future episodes on your iPod/iPhone.

In this first episode Hieromonk Joshua and Subdeacon Vladimir Laven discuss the origins of the Saint George Orthodox Military Association; the need to assist our Orthodox Armed Services Members, their dependents, and those who have served; increasing the size of the Orthodox Chaplaincy that serves our military; and some of the goals and outreach programs of SGOMA.

This podcast was recorded back in the beginning of January 2010. It was Hieromonk Joshua and Subdeacon Vladamir’s first ever attempt at doing a podcast. It is hoped that over time, and as they do more podcasts, that they will get better and present more of a professional, enjoyable and educational feel to the podcasts.

The next several episodes of “Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” will feature podcasts from:

Fr. Anthony Perkins – Retired U.S. Army Intel Officer
Fr. Peter Dubinin – U.S. Army Orthodox Chaplain Recruiter
Fr. Jerome Cwiklinski – U.S. Navy Orthodox Chaplain
Hieromonk Joshua
– U.S. Navy Veteran, Co-Director of SGOMA
Subdeacon Vladimir Laven – U.S. Air Force (Ret), Co-Director of SGOMA
His Grace Bishop Daniel
, the blessing Hierarch of SGOMA, Former U.S. Army Orthodox Chaplain

And many more to come!

Please visit and bookmark the “Orthodox Christians on the Front Lines” page on Ancient Faith Radio at the following web-address: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frontlines