Buddhist chaplain candidate trains at Fort Carson
News First Online, Aug 7, 2007
Fort Carson, CO (USA) -- Lieutenant Somya Malasri isn't your average soldier. He joined the Army at age 35, after spending more than 10 years as a Buddhist monk. Malasri grew up in Thailand, and he is now training to become the first Buddhist chaplain in the Army. A decision that forced him to give up his title as a monk. "I had to change my status to 'minister' because a Buddhist monk cannot be a soldier."
<< Somya Malasri, training to be the first Buddhist chaplain in the US Army
Malasri moved to the United States in 2001. He never considered joining the Army or becoming a chaplain until he talked to a couple Buddhist soldiers. They talked to him about their frustrations; the Army didn't have any Buddhist chaplains, although there are about 3,300 Buddhist soldiers in the service. That is when Malasri decided to try and become the Army's first.
"I can serve more soldiers in the Army, because I love soldiers and I love to help others," he said. As part of his schooling, Malasri was brought to Fort Carson to learn from Captain Lisa Northway, a Pentecostal chaplain. For the next two weeks, Malasri will be attending services and learning first-hand the daily duties a chaplain performs. Captain Northway says, "I think it would be very encouraging for some of those same (Buddhist) soldiers to know there is a actually a chaplain of their particular faith group."
Lieutenant Malasri may talk with a strong accent, and he practices a religion that may be foreign to some, but he says it's those differences that make him an American. "I want to serve Buddhism and I want to serve soldiers. I want to serve the nation. Even though I'm from Thailand, I am American citizen. I want to do something for our nation." Malasri's chaplain training is scheduled to last two-and-a-half years.