jueves, junio 23, 2005

Major to build Masonic lodge in Iraq

News Staff Reporter

Dan Walther made sure he would return to Iraq armed with the proper equipment. But Walther, a major in an Army National Guard unit based at the Connecticut Street Armory, didn't push for armored Humvees.

Instead, he obtained aprons, jewels, gavels, marble sounding blocks and an altar - the objects he needs to open a Masonic lodge at Forward Operating Base Speicher, where he has been stationed for the past year.

A third-generation Mason, Walther joined Master Builder Masonic Lodge 911 in Kenmore when he was 21, eventually serving as the lodge's master. Now 46, the Town of Tonawanda resident is returning to his base just north of Tikrit after a 15-day leave. He rejoined the National Guard's Engineer Brigade, 32nd Infantry Division, and will serve as the master of Land, Sea and Air Masonic Lodge 1, the only Masonic lodge in Iraq.

The United States is home to more than 13,000 Masonic lodges, whose members adhere to a motto of "friendship, morality, and brotherly love," according to the Grand Lodge of the State of New York's Web site. Masons are dedicated to doing good, not operating underground, Walther said.

"Masonry is not a secret society," he said. "Masonry is a society with secrets. If we were a secret society, we wouldn't have signs outside our buildings."

Opening a lodge outside Saddam Hussein's hometown required help from Masons across New York, Walther said.

"The Grand Lodge of the State of New York and all the Masons have been extremely supportive of everything we've done," he said. "When the word got around, there was a bunch of red tape to cut through, and everybody jumped up and said, "What can I do?' "

Edward R. Trosin, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, granted the new lodge full dispensation, allowing its officers to induct new members. In addition, New York's Masonic War Veterans provided Walther with the supplies he needed at no cost, Walther said.

The Masons' tightknit relationships should attract new members from the base, Walther said.

"We all look for the opportunity to meet with those who have the same beliefs, who share the same likes and dislikes and enjoy the camaraderie and the values the organization teaches," he said.

Walther's commitment to Masonry is so deep that he kept his return home a secret from everyone, including his family, so that he could surprise his friend Kent Dorney when Dorney was sworn in as master of the Kenmore lodge. Walther arrived home on Memorial Day, but he had to hide from Dorney, who lives a half-mile away, until the ceremony five days later. The surprise was worth the wait, Dorney said.

e-mail: rhaggerthy@biuffnews.com

Posted by Hello

Kent Dorney, left, and Army Maj. Dan Walther stand outside Master Builder Masonic Lodge 911 on Delaware Road in Kenmore.

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