Atheists attack Air Force Christian as national security threat

by Karen L. Willoughby |

(Courtesy photo posted by AFRC)Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo, 433rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, maintenance support section chief from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, with children in a village near San Raimundo, Guatemala. His job that day was to entertain the children with coloring while their parents are being seen by the medical staff.

SAN ANTONIO (Christian Examiner) -- Master Sergeant Larry Gallo takes his family over the Christmas holidays on a 9-day medical mission trip to Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras each year.

Two daughters are physician-assistants; Gallo, a maintenance engineer, occupies youngsters waiting in line. Last year the multi-disciplined medical team saw 720 patients.

"Seven years ago my family and I started giving up our commercial Christmases to do something different," Gallo said. "Since then, we never looked back. These trips allow everyone to slow down and realize that some of the stress we put on ourselves is uncalled for once we put things into perspective."

"We have so much in the United States, and we are blessed as a nation," Gallo continued. "There is no guilt in being blessed. The guilt comes when we complain and grumble and take for granted the things we do have, and not use those blessings to help others who are burdened."

It's a great story of selflessness and sacrifice, so much so that the online publication for the Air Force Reserve Command on Jan. 23 used it as its weekly feature article written by Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice. Gallo is a senior master sergeant in the 433rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, a maintenance support section chief from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

However, the Air Force Command in San Antonio began reviewing the article on Jan. 27 after the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) demanded it be taken down. MRFF is a freedom from religion group organized in 2005.

Mikey Weinstein, MRFF founder and president, in an email to 433rd AW Vice Commander Col. Aaron Vangelisiti, called the article a "shameless and incredibly prominent and public promotion" of religion on official Air Force websites, wrote Bryant Jordan for Military.com, an online newsite.

The MRFF represents 51 airmen at San Antonio-Lackland, 44 of which are Roman Catholic or Protestant, Weinstein said, according to Jordan. The group does not identify clients because they fear reprisal, Weinstein added.

Gallo makes the trip as part of T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries, a faith-based Christian organization based in San Antonio, a fact noted in the Air Force article.

It was this fact that apparently aroused the ire of Weinstein.

Air Force regulations demand that commanders at every level "must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief," Weinstein wrote in a multi-email exchange with Vangelisiti, according to Jordan's article.

At one point the base commander informed Weinstein that it was being handled by the JAG (Judge Advocate General's) office.

Weinstein said everyone involved ought to know better than to post such an article on an official military website. Highlighting Gallo's work with an evangelical Christian organization sends the wrong kind of message. It "emboldens our Islamic enemies because we look like Crusaders and it enrages our Islamic allies," Weinstein wrote.

A ruling is to be made by Friday, but already Jan. 30 the next week's feature article was posted, about an airman in Florida who is a body-builder.