Include everyone by calling winter gathering a 'holiday' party

Vance Air Force Base, Okla. -- While we all work to accomplish the same mission of "Preparing Tomorrow's Joint Warriors to Fly ... Fight ... and Win," we all may not share the same religious faith or ideology about life.
The Air Force and our country are unique because we are diverse, yet unified. We must accept our diversity and embrace it since it is such an integral part of who we are as Americans.
A prime example of our diversity is how many different ways Americans celebrate the winter holiday season. It is important to remember there are many groups of people who celebrate a holiday around December called something other than Christmas. So during the holiday season, we can do one of two things -- practice exclusion or inclusion.
Exclusion does much to damage the morale of a unit. If a member of an organization feels excluded from an event, say a "Christmas" party (since they may not celebrate Christmas), then the intent of the party -- camaraderie, etc. -- has been missed and more harm than good has been done.
On the other hand, inclusion does great things to boost camaraderie. By calling your gathering a holiday party instead of a Christmas party, those who may not celebrate Christmas may feel more welcome to attend.
So how diversely do we celebrate the holiday season? Approximately nine to 10 million Americans do not celebrate Christmas. Most of those who do not celebrate Christmas are either members of a non-Christian faith (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc.) or they simply do not have a religious affiliation. They may however, celebrate special events or holidays such as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Ramadan.
Unbeknownst to you, many of these individuals may be your friends, peers, subordinates or co-workers. The bottom line is, you may be preparing invitations for a Christmas party with the best intentions, but the impact may be that an individual is left feeling excluded based on how he or she celebrates the holiday.
These semantics can make a difference between exclusion and inclusion. By doing something as simple as calling the Christmas party a holiday party, this may send a clear message that an organization embraces diversity, is inclusive and considers all people as valued members regardless of how or what they celebrate during the holiday season. Diversity is a powerful tool and has made us the great nation we are and will continue to be. It should not only be embraced during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.
Commanders and supervisors should keep in mind Department of Defense Directive 1300.17 (Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Service). The directive states that a basic principle of our nation is the freedom to practice and exercise religion. The DoD places a high value on the rights of members of the Armed Forces to observe their respective religions. Ultimately, commanders have the final approval in regards to religious accommodation and should approve religious accommodation except when precluded by military necessity. When a request for accommodation is precluded by military necessity, commanders should seek reasonable alternatives.
For more information, call the chapel at 7211 or military equal opportunity at 6181. Happy holidays and season's greetings from your wing MEO staff.