Multicultural blessing protects firefighters
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Personnel with the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron and religious leaders gathered at the main fire station on base to participate in a dedication and blessing ceremony for a new fire truck, Nov. 25.
Shinto priests began with rituals to bless Fire Engine 14, the newest addition to the Yokota firefighting fleet.
The rituals featured a formal reading of prayer and a food and drink offering to the Shinto gods.
"Although I've worked at this fire station for more than 20 years, this is my first time witnessing such a ceremony," said Yasuo Kimura, 374th CES firefighter. "Personally, I found the ceremony to be good for my spiritual health."
After the Shinto priests' ritual, Maj. Oscar Fonseca, 374th Airlift Wing chaplain, offered up prayers for the fire engine.
"This ceremony of the blessing of the fire truck is important because it makes our firefighters feel safeguarded," Fonseca said. "The psychosomatic effect of feeling spiritually protected through a blessing may enable these firefighters to carry out their job effectively."
Though the blessing of the fleet ceremony is a time-honored tradition that began many years ago, this particular service was the first one to feature both Shinto priests and a chaplain.
"I believe that the dual blessing here today is a sign that we are all one big family," Fonseca said. It has provided a great opportunity for us to come together and share with one another."
When speaking with the Shinto priests, Airman 1st Class Thomas Smith, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron fire protection journeyman, said that he was appreciative of their prayers.
"I feel that any blessing that you receive, regardless of religion, is a good thing," Smith said. "Just knowing that people care and are willing to take the time to come out here to try and make your job safer by blessing the truck is a gift."
The ceremony concluded with closing remarks from the CES commander in which he highlighted the significance of the day's service.
"It's important to note that today's ceremony is not about the truck; it's about the lives and property our Airman will save by using the truck," said Lt. Col. David, McCleese, 374th CES commander. "It's about making sure our guys come home safely after a call."