Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nebraska's Swisher Lodge in Afghanistan

The Grand Lodge of Nebraska has established a military lodge that has been at work in Afghanistan over the last few months. From a report by W.B. Patrick Barger in the latest Nebraska Mason magazine:

In the last issue of the Nebraska Mason I was pleased to report there were a number of people stationed near me who were interested in joining Masonry. As the word continued to quickly pass through our military channels and the chain of command, many deployed personnel followed through on their desire to become Masons. When it was finally time to rap the Entered Apprentice gavel, it is my pleasure to report that we initiated seven Masons before the lodge shut its doors and returned with me to the United States. A Navy Captain, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Army Sergeant First Class, two Navy Lieutenants, an Air Force Major, and a civilian contractor were initiated.

Before I packed our implements of Masonry and climbed aboard a C-17 Globemaster III headed toward the setting sun, Swisher Lodge had thirty members hailing from all corners of the earth. Besides Nebraska, the Phillipines, Nova Scotia, Oregon, West Virginia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, Germany, Washington, Colorado, and South Dakota are represented. Brothers from Oregon and Colorado who remain in the war zone have contacted the Grand Lodge of Nebraska for advice on forming an expeditionary lodge and inform me their Grand Masters are very interested in pursuing the idea. It’s nice to know Nebraska has inspired and played a significant role in furthering Masonry well beyond its territorial borders.

As you know, Swisher Lodge was named after Bro. (SSG) Christopher Swisher of Lincoln Lodge No. 19, killed in Iraq in 2003. Everything we did was dedicated to him. The lodge was the brainchild of MWB Dean Skokan who, during his advancement through the Grand Lodge Officer line in 2003, heard the Grand Lodge of Tennessee formed an expeditionary lodge and sent it to the war zone with deployed brothers. Skokan, a Vietnam combat veteran, was struck by the fact he saw a photograph of deployed Masons wearing garbage bags as aprons and vowed to create what eventually became known as the famous “Swisher Kit” containing real cloth aprons and all the implements necessary to conduct a lodge meeting that could fit within a shoulder bag. MWB Dean’s additional research revealed the Grand Lodge of Nebraska previously constituted what was known as “Monitor Lodge” during the Civil War for Nebraska Masons deployed to the front lines to continue their Masonic endeavors. To discover that significant bit of Masonic military history was for Skokan, “Very inspiring. Very inspiring…” All of this indeed inspired him to research and define the necessary legalities of constituting a modern expeditionary lodge. Wanting to dedicate it to SSG Swisher and with the permission of his family and approval by the necessary Masonic authorities, the lodge was formed. In a way only a combat veteran knows, there are frequent times when you search for anything from home to help take your mind off the stress of the war zone environment. Next to communicating with your family, being able to sit in lodge with your fraternal brothers is second only to that. On behalf of 30 Masons deployed to Afghanistan, we thank MWB Dean Skokan for having the vision and tenacity to accomplish that.

Our very existence in Afghanistan is evidence that Masonry is a worldwide fraternity. There are 30 brothers in the world who will always remember one of their best and most memorable experiences in Masonry was in a Nebraska lodge.

It’s good to be home. God Bless You, our beloved country, and the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.

H/T to Greg Prososki

1 comment:

Charles E. Martin said...

I am delighted to hear this. I have been trying to participate in Masonry in Afghanistan for some years. Please see http://www.cemab4y.blogspot.com

Charles E. Martin