View Full Version : Religion JBLM Soldier First Active Duty Buddhist Chaplain

05-16-2011, 10:59 PM
Of all the branch insignia on uniforms at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one stands out for a unique reason. Chaplain (Capt.) Somya Malasri's dharma wheel is one of the most uncommon symbols in the military. He is the first - and currently, the only - active-duty Buddhist chaplain in the Army.

Now with the 593rd Sustainment Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Malasri is facing the challenges of being a good Soldier, a good Buddhist and a good leader to the Soldiers he came to help.


Part of his service to others includes providing weekly Buddhist services on base. Spc. Lawrence Ross, 593rd Sust. Bde., attends regularly. "(It gives me) a sense of belonging, where a group can connect without any animosity of judging," he said. Ross, who became a Buddhist in 2008, says that it has helped him become a better Soldier and that having a Buddhist presence on base helps people see another side of the Army. "It's not all about kicking down doors and killing people," he said. "It's all about helping people. Bottom line."

This is a sentiment Malasri agrees with. He says he gets asked a lot how he balances being a leader of a famously peaceful religion and being in the armed services. For him, even the least aggressive of people must be able to defend themselves, their property and their rights.

"If you don't have a Soldier ... you don't have freedom to practice your own religion," he said.