A Sacrifice Not Recognized
Chas Clifton reports on the story of Roberta Stewart. Stewart recently lost her husband (a member of the Nevada National Guard) in Afghanistan. She never realized that the government wouldn’t recognize her husband’s faith on his memorial plaque. This is because Patrick and Roberta Stewart’s family are Wiccan, and no modern Pagan faith is allowed a symbol on a military marker.
Roberta Stewart standing at her husbands blank memorial space.
While the military allows over thirty different religious symbols on military headstones including Eckankar and the Atheist Association of America, they have been stonewalling for nearly a decade in the matter of Pagan symbols. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration has been outright dismissive of modern Paganism and the soldiers and veterans who proudly claim a Pagan faith on their dog-tags.
“We want people to prove that there is a viable organization. … We’re not going to willy-nilly approve emblems until there is a need.” – Anissa Alford, director of communications for the VA’s National Cemetery Administration
Roberta Stewart has joined the Pagan Headstone Campaign and says she will fight until her husbands faith is recognized on his memorial marker.
“It’s discrimination. They are discriminating against our religion. I had no idea that they would decline our veterans this right that they go to fight for, what religion we are doesn’t matter. It’s like denying who my husband is. By they way, if you die for your country, your religion won’t be recognized, that would be nice to know…my husband needs to be remembered somewhere besides in my heart.”
Alexandria Maxwell-Stewart, the couple’s 12 year old daughter wrote to the secretary of veterans affairs asking for approval for the symbol’s use.
“Why won’t you put my dad’s religion sign on a plaque. He respected you and your rules and went and fought for our country and died for our country and this is how you treat him and his family.”
Circle Sanctuary has filed for a Wiccan memorial symbol in January using a new administrative process, but there is no comment from the Department of Veterans Affairs on if the application will be successful. It is hoped that once a Wiccan symbol is accepted this will open the door for a variety of modern Pagan symbols for all Pagan veterans. Until such time, the sacrifices of Pagan veterans will go unhonored by our government.