A 150-year-old ‘Soldier’s Prayer Book’, carried by 4 veterans of the US Civil War, World War 1, World War 2, and Gulf War 1, is now on its way to Afghanistan to its 5th owner.
The prayer book is dated 1861 and its 60 pocket-sized pages includes hymns, prayers and a shortened funeral service for troops “in cases where the full service cannot be celebrated with advantage.”
Its original owner was Major Edwin R. Smith, who, at the age of 37, enrolled in the Union Army as a private at Lansingburg, New York in 1862. He carried it through 32 active engagements in the Civil War.
The prayer book next went into action in World War 1 in the possession of Ordnance Sergeant Sidney Morey, who carried it through France and Germany as a member of the 1st Army American Expeditionary Forces from October 1917 to July 1919.
When World War 2 broke out, Morey handed it to Master Sergeant William G. Clark, who carried it from October 1940 to October 1945. Clark was on active service in the South Pacific and won the Silver Star and Bronze Star.
In 1989, Clark passed it on to Captain Shawn Littrell of the United States Marine Corps, who carried it during the First Gulf War 1990-91 and then in Somalia in 1993.
Littrell said the book was a “comfort” to him during difficult times: “To carry a book that has been held by three other warriors … over 150 years has been truly special. It helped to know that everyone who has carried it returned safely home to family and friends.”
Littrell is now passing the historic book to Specialist Michael Jenkins, who is serving as a US Army combat engineer in Afghanistan. Like the old soldiers before him, Littrell has typed a good luck message at the front of the book to its next owner: “I give this book, along with the spirit of the warriors who have carried it over the past 150 years, to SPC. Michael Jenkins. I hope it brings him peace, luck and good fortune as it has to all of us who have preceded him.”
Jenkins doesn’t yet know that the much-travelled prayer book is on its way to him. His mother will catch his reaction when they are next on Skype, but she knows that he will be honoured to be entrusted with it – until the day comes for him to pass it on to a future soldier.