ARABIAN SEA --
Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit gathered aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans to observe Ash Wednesday Feb. 22.
The ship’s religious ministries team conducted a service to celebrate the beginning of Lent.
Lent, which lasts 40 days before Easter, is recognized as a time of prayer and repentance.
Navy Lt. Paul Armstrong, the ship’s chaplain, said the service was non-denominational to relate to a broader audience.
“What we try and do is honor as many traditions as possible,” he said. “We do it as a way to make it a place for anyone to come and enjoy the service.”
Lance Cpl. Lance Bonney, a field radio operator with Battery K, said that he benefits from the opportunity to practice his religion.
“It feels good because it keeps my faith up and keeps my day going even if I’m going through hard times,” said the 20-year-old Columbus, Ga., native. “I try to participate as much as I can, whether it’s bible study or a service.”
“Freedom of religion is one of our constitutional rights,” said Armstrong. “What we do is … give (service members) an option to practice their faith.”
The 11th MEU is deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force. The group is providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility.