News: Masonry thrives at GTMO
Story by Sgt. David Bolton
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - At the top of John Paul Jones hill, overlooking the bay, is small, concrete monument. Runners often touch it upon reaching the summit of the hill, but how many have ever stopped to read the plaque on it? If you know where to look and what you are looking for, you’ll notice there are several distinct markers around the Base that bear a particular emblem. This emblem has been the seal of an organization that is the oldest fraternity in the western hemisphere – the Masons. Despite popular culture’s depiction of this group as secretive, subversive and secular, the Caribbean Naval Lodge at Guantanamo Bay is quick to point out that it is charity and wisdom that sets members apart.
“It boils down to relief, charity and brotherly love,” said Richard Vargas, post master for Guantanamo Bay. “You try to associate yourself with like-minded individuals who try to better themselves and the community.”
“Mason means one thing to me, charity,” said Neil Mendoza, database admin for Islands Mechanical, “devoting and giving your time.”
The Masons have been at GTMO since 1965 when the CNL was first established. Service members stationed here, some who were already Masons from various lodges, wanted to have a place where they could continue their traditions and customs.
“It was originally designed as a military lodge, because that’s all you had here at that time, it was a way for them to fellowship with other Masons on an installation,” said Vargas.
The CNL, which falls under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Massachusetts, prides itself on benevolence to the GTMO community. Recently, its members assisted the local Boy Scout troop with building a memorial to honor Christopher Columbus.
“The Eagle Scout came to us and asked us for help,” said Vargas, “so we went out and said ‘of course we’ll help you build your project.’ Little by little we’re working on giving back to the community.”
Since the beginning of the CNL, the Masons at GTMO have openly offered Troopers the promise of friendship, brotherhood and charity. The principles and virtues adhered to by the acolytes of this assemblage, according to Vargas, help make the world a better place; not just for the members, but for all who share this world.
“What we give people is the wisdom to practice charity,” said Mendoza. “Once they travel and go to foreign countries, they know what to do and how to treat other people.”
For more information about the CNL, call 78695 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.