Soldiers from the French Third Armored Division were able to celebrate Easter in their native tongue thanks to the efforts of an American chaplain April 4 on Fort Hood.
“I know what it means to be in a foreign land,” the chaplain conducting the service, U.S. Army Chaplain (Capt.) Raymond Akirewe, of the 1st Cavalry Division, said.
Akirewe is an ordained Catholic priest and a fluent French speaker who joined the Army in 2016. Ghanian in origin, Akirewe now calls Zionsville, Indiana, home.
“We are more comfortable talking to God in our own language and having a relationship with God in our own language,” Akirewe remarked.
Akirewe said he was struck with the idea of holding a French-language Mass after witnessing individual French soldiers walk across Fort Hood to filter in to his regular services.
“I noticed they had to walk a long distance to come to the chapel,” Akirewe said. “So that got me thinking.”
“This could be an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist, especially at Easter in their own language, in their own home in their own backyard,” Akirewe said. “My brigade and the rest of the Chaplain Corps jumped right on board after I brought it up.”
Starting at 11 a.m., around 150 French Soldiers attended the service held at the French living area. The service was initially intended to be held in the open air but, due to rain, was moved into a French temporary dining facility.
The brief service lasted an hour and communion was administered to those in attendance. Around 1,000 French Soldiers of the French Third Armored Division are currently on Fort Hood to attend Warfighter 21-4, a multinational exercise conducted with the collaboration of the U.S., the United Kingdom and France.
Akirewe, who has served as a missionary in the past, said that the day was very special to him for a number of reasons.
“I do know that I have a special role to play because a healthy mind, and healthy heart are closely related to our faith. So a healthy faith brings resilience for our soldiers,” Akirewe said. “Hopefully together we can seek peace for our world.”