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December 04, 2006

Fallen vet finally gets Wiccan plaque

The widow of a Wiccan soldier who died in Afghanistan placed a government-issued pentagram plaque on her husband's memorial on Saturday. Roberta Stewart fought the government for over a year for the right to commemorate her late husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart with a Wiccan symbol. Stewart was one of the approximately 1800 active-duty US service members who identify as Wiccan or neo-pagan.

The Stewarts' wishes were honored after the Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) intervened on their behalf with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services. (Not bad for a Republican.)

The VA now says it is rewriting the rules about emblems on government-issued memorial plaques. [WaPo]

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The Nevada Office of Veterans Services approved the Wiccan symbol.

The federal VA doesn't approve the Wiccan symbol yet.

This was a far more interesting post when I believed the headline to be "Fallen Vet Finally Gets Wiccan Plague."

Burying them in accordance with their wishes is the least we can do to thank the soldiers (and occasional sailor) who die in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really isn't nearly enough -- in fact, the the very issue of burial is a demonstration of our failure in that dimension -- but we should at least cover the basics.

Good job, Kenny Guinn.

>Burying them in accordance with their wishes is the least we can do to thank the soldiers (and occasional sailor) who die in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Agreed. It is a strange juxtaposition, Wiccan + Military. Also, when the Osama bin Laden followers, with their constant accusations of idolatry and paganism, come across a Wiccan or neo-Pagan soldier or sailor, they must just really go off: "a-HA! You _see_?"

But yes, the least we can do is respect their wishes for their memorial.

I have been following this story since the beginning and I was so happy to read, finally, that his widow was able to finally see his memorial plaque in place with the symbol of his belief.

In a country which gives great lip service to freedom of religion, it is a sad sad thing that it took a year to acheive.

Blessings
Mama Kelly

In a country which gives great lip service to freedom of religion, it is a sad sad thing that it took a year to acheive.

True enough, but I'd hazard a guess that there are very few other countries which officially recognize Wicca, particularly for something which is fraught with symbolic meaning such as a headstone.

Bureaucracies move slowly, but it's good to see that they came to the right decision.

May all our fallen soldiers rest in the peace they richly deserve, regardless of the symbol gracing their headstones.

In Europe’s humongous World Wars I & II cemeteries I was always a little dismayed that in death a soldier gets his procrustean choice of a cross or star of David headstone and that’s it. I don’t remember seeing any, but there must be graves of the Hindu and Muslim soldiers that fought for England and France. What’s with their headstones?

Back in the sixties when I last saw dog tags, they included one's religion on the last line. As a guide to proper battlefield burial I assume. We army brats in Europe that were too young to be given laminated ID cards got dog tags. Mine said “protestant” which presumably was as close as my mother could get to the army printing “nothing”.

Thanks for writing about this. Wiccans are wide open to discrimination, harassment and punitive treatment in family law courts as a matter of practice.

I know of the keeper of an occult bookstore (too nervous to even have this info repeated in connection with the state they live in) who at least once a month has one jerk or another come into the store to yell at them in front of customers, tell them they're going to hell, and in some cases actually push people around. They're too afraid to tell the police because they worry it will just make it worse, though it's in a fairly large, blue-leaning city.

And, erm, not to be too nitpicky, but the 5-pointed wiccan star symbol is usually referred to as a pentagram.

Thanks for pointing that out, natasha. I'll fix the reference.

"They're too afraid to tell the police because they worry it will just make it worse..."
Natasha, you should tell your acquaintance that not calling the police (and then pressing charges) is making it worse. And if customers are assaulted, they too can file complaints. The sanctions of the criminal law can protect also the weird.

Handcarved headstones are no doubt the best chioce available, all in various types of stone the hand carving adds a certain personal element to the memorial/monument. Personally stonework created using only machines doesnt have the same level of creativlty in my opinion.

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