FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 11, 2021) -- The lunch hour is typically when people nourish their bodies. For some 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers at Fort Drum, it is also the time to nourish their souls.
The Fort Drum Religious Support Office recently started a new Jum’ah Prayer Service at the Main Post Chapel on Fridays so that Soldiers practicing the Muslim faith have an opportunity to answer the call to prayer.
“The Jum’ah is a Muslim communal prayer time,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col) David Stoner, Fort Drum garrison chaplain. “It’s an opportunity to come together, pray and encourage one another. That’s a big part of all the major faith groups – that gathering together for fellowship and encouragement – and we are happy to provide that for our Soldiers.”
Stoner said that the service was established due to an overwhelming number of requests from Muslim Soldiers. In the first two weeks, attendance grew from 10 to 14 Soldiers. Several Soldiers began meeting at the Main Post Chapel for evening prayer as well during the month of Ramadan. It also provides them an alternative to leaving post to attend service at a local mosque.
“This is a new initiative for us, and it came about because we have a significant enough Muslim population here interested in participating in the prayer service,” Stoner said. “Typically, we always ask Soldiers during in-processing to let us know if we don’t have something they are looking for.”
Spc. Zawad Mollah, with 1st Brigade Combat Team, said that his chaplain told him about the weekly prayer service.
“That was the first I heard that this was even happening, so I wanted to attend,” he said. “It was really great seeing everyone here – a lot of support – and I plan on attending prayers from now on. It’s great that it is getting a little traction now.”
Mollah said that the service is an example of how the Army has become more inclusive and tolerant of different religions and cultures.
Spc. Joseph Suarez, with the Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit, is a newly converted Muslim and he had never attended a Friday service before.
“It is very special to me seeing how big the (Muslim) community is here, because I expected only three people at first,” he said. “It’s very promising that it is such a growing community. I don’t know how else to say it, but being here means a lot to me.”
Sgt. Maya Sheed, who works in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team dining facility, arrived at the service still dressed in her culinary whites, but she quickly donned a head scarf and took her place on a prayer mat.
“I just converted to Islam, and prayer is one of the five pillars of my faith, so it was very important for me to be here,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for me to be able to do my prayers, especially since I’m still learning.”
The Jum’ah Prayer Service is held at 12:30 p.m. every Friday in Room 105 at the Main Post Chapel. It is open to all members of the Fort Drum community, as well as those who are considering becoming members of Islam.
For more information about the religious services available on post, call (315) 772-5591 or visit www.home.army.mil/drum/index.php/my-fort/all-services/chaplains-office.