On May 10th I reported that the Thor’s Hammer (aka Mjölnir) emblem was approved for veteran’s headstones and grave markers by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Since then, more details have been slowly emerging as to how the approval came about. We know that the listing went up on May 2nd, and thanks to a statement sent to The Wild Hunt from the Guardian of The Northern Winds Hearth we now know the circumstances of the emblem’s approval. “Due to a number of inquires regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs approval of the Mjölnir – Hammer of Thor Emblem as one of the “Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers” I have decided to write the following statement to try and answer everyone’s questions.
In 2007, after a decade-long struggle, Pagan and Wiccan organizations succeeded in getting the Pentacle approved for military veteran headstones and markers. After that victory, in July of 2007, a rally was held to start the push for two more symbols: the Druid Awen and the Heathen Thor’s Hammer. Two Heathen organizations, The Troth and the Asatru Folk Assembly, were represented at that rally, and from it a wider movement to get the Thor’s Hammer approved emerged. Now, after a six-year journey which included some inter-organizational tensions within the Heathen community and a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs rule change, it appears the symbol has finally been approved. The updated emblems list is the only place where this addition is noted.
For those who have attended a military funeral in the United States, or even watched one on television, you know there’s certain traditional ceremonial actions taken. The folding and presentation of the flag, the firing of a 3-volley salute, and the playing of Taps are all standard. In addition to these standard elements, there are several volunteer support and advocacy groups who often provide additional services to the family of the bereaved. Three of those organizations, The National Memorial Ladies, The American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars are all now embroiled in a controversy raging in Texas over what kinds of religious speech are allowed, without permission, at military funerals. Local branches of those organizations, along with a local pastor, are currently litigating against Department of Veteran’s Affairs officials at the Houston National Cemetery for allegedly “banning” mention of God and Jesus at military services.
A controversy is brewing in King, North Carolina over the flying of a Christian flag at the city’s community veterans memorial. Amid protests and threats of litigation, the city council reached what they thought would be an acceptable compromise solution.
“The King City Council approved a policy Monday night that eventually would allow a Christian flag to fly again at a memorial at the city’s Central Park as a part of a limited public display of religious flags recognized by the U.S. military. Members of the Army Chaplain Corps wear four symbols on their uniforms — the Christian cross, the Jewish tablets and Star of David, the Buddhist dharma-chakra and the Muslim crescent, said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the U.S. Army.
Today is Veterans Day in America, a day when military veterans are honored for their service to our country. In addition to acknowledging the sacrifices and service given by our own co-religionists in years past, and the battles to see them properly honored, it is also an excellent time to look to the Pagan soldiers currently serving at home and overseas. On this Veterans Day Circle Sanctuary is kicking off its annual Operation Circle Care project to send Pagan-themed care packages to Pagan soldiers serving in war zones. This year, due to the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood, they are including the over 150 Pagan and Wiccan soldiers and their families living and serving there as well. “Operation Circle Care is currently gearing up to collect and send gift packages for Yule for Pagan troops for the third year in a row.