View Full Version : Bronze Star Veteran Denied VA Memorial

07-07-06, 09:57 AM
Bronze Star Veteran Denied VA Memorial
Posted By Grim

A decorated soldier, killed in combat in Afghanistan, is refused a memorial by the Veteran's Administration. The Washington Times picked up this UPI report.

The problem is that he's a pagan, and the VA won't allow pagan symbols on graves or similar markers. The Washington Post reports that Sgt. Patrick Stewart died when his helicopter was shot down in combat in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his actions that day.

However a man prays, a volunteer who died fighting for his country should be recognized. If you're devoted to Christianity and worry about pagan influences, don't take my word for it -- take Christianity Today's. They recognize that this man lived and died as an American.

Good for him. If only more were as ready to sacrifice for their nation. America should honor his grave.

U.S. bars Wiccan sign on military grave

Jul. 6, 2006 at 10:36AM

Though one of the fastest growing faiths in America, the Wiccan symbol is barred from U.S. military gravesites.
One major problem appears to be the misconception that Wiccans are devil worshippers, The Washington Post says, and their practice seen by some as a pagan ritual.

A case in point is Sgt. Patrick Stewart of Fernley, Nev., believed to be the first U.S. Wiccan killed in action. He died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Stewart, 34, winner of the Bronze Star, is missing from the town's wall of heroes because his wife won't allow his inclusion without the Wiccan symbol, the Post reported.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which has approved some three dozen religious symbols, refuses to allow it on U.S. military memorials or grave markers.

More than 1,800 Wiccans are on active duty, the Pentagon told the Post. U.S. federal courts recognize the faith and his dog tags listed Stewart as Wiccan.


07-07-06, 02:15 PM

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f5/Pentagram_circumscribed.svg/200px-Pentagram_circumscribed.svg.png (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Pentagram_circumscribed.svg) http://en.wikipedia.org/skins-1.5/common/images/magnify-clip.png (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Pentagram_circumscribed.svg)
The pentagram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagram) within a circle; a symbol of faith (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith) used by many Wiccans.

Wicca is a Neopagan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neopaganism) religion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion) and a religious movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_religious_movement) found in many different countries, though most commonly in English-speaking cultures. Wicca was first publicised in 1954 by a British civil servant named Gerald Gardner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Gardner)<SUP class=reference id=_ref-WitchcraftToday_0>[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca#_note-WitchcraftToday)</SUP> after the British (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom) Witchcraft Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Act) was repealed. He claimed that the religion, of which he was an initiate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initiation), was a modern survival of an old witch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft) cult, which had existed in secret for hundreds of years, originating in the pre-Christian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity) Paganism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paganism) of Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe). Wicca is thus sometimes referred to as the Old Religion. The veracity of Gardner's claims cannot be independently proven, and it is thought that Wiccan theology began to be compiled no earlier than the 1920s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920). Various related Wiccan traditions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditions) have since evolved, or been adapted from, the form established by Gardner, which came to be called Gardnerian Wicca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardnerian_Wicca). These other traditions of Wicca each have specific beliefs, rituals, and practices. Most traditions of Wicca remain secretive and require members to be initiated. However, there is a growing movement of Eclectic or Solitary Wiccans who claim to belong to the religious movement, but do not believe any doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrine) or traditional initiation is necessary in order to substantiate the claim.

07-07-06, 03:05 PM
It's ironic that the very center shape of the wicca is a pentagon (Where have I heard that word before regarding military matters?) within a pentacle/hexagram.

07-07-06, 03:29 PM
The symbol is not a pentagon, it is a pentagram. Different beast entirely.
As to the memorial, maybe it is just me, but it sounds like they have not refused to memorialize the man, rather that the symbol is not included in the list of authorized symbols allowed on his memorial. We all know that the military has many lists of authorized and unauthorized items. Shall we break them all. Just because the wife has chosen that she wants the symbol included?!? I don't know. Seems to me that falls more on her shoulders than on the VA's.

07-07-06, 03:40 PM
You are right, HBD2ISDM. I meant to say a polygon of five angles and five sides (pen-ta-gon n.) but didn't. I stand corrected and in agreement.

Phantom Blooper
07-07-06, 03:52 PM
I think this is a question that Samantha can probably figure out. A twitch of the nose and presto!

How many religions does the VA recognize?

If the Army put it on his dog tags ..recognized it and had not a problem with it the illustrious (SIC) VA should not have one. This country was founded on the freedom of religion as being one of the freedoms that our founding fathers signed into legislation hundreds of years ago. But when the Supreme Court rules against the 10 commandments in courthouses what makes me think that the VA would do the right thing and give a family a Wicca Pentagram to put on a memorial for a warrior that protected the very freedom that allows them to sit in Washington and decide who can have and who cannot.

07-07-06, 04:09 PM
One other tho't for this subject. I just visited the VA's website and read a little on the policies. These "memorials" are the headstones placed at the gravesite. Who pays for the headstones? The taxpayers, not the family who has lost a member. If the wife is all fired up that the Wiccan symbol must be on the headstone, then she can pay for the symbol.
It is not an arbitrary list. This list that the VA has, has been around for some time. It is not like they are deliberately picking on this serviceman. They have their rules, just like everyone else. Hence being a part of the beauracracy.

Phantom Blooper
07-07-06, 04:35 PM
This list that the VA has, has been around for some time. It is not like they are deliberately picking on this serviceman. They have their rules, just like everyone else.

Understand what you wrote. However,

Rules in Washington are broke on a daily basis. The very own lawmakers that are writing the rules and putting them into policy are breaking the rules and then rewriting them to fit the agenda of the day.

This serviceman and his wife without knowing their financial situation are suspected to be taxpayers.So they are virtually paying for a headstone like any other deserving veteran and should not have to inc cur this expense out of pocket. The blood the young man shed was shed serving a country that acknowledged his religion while defending the very same lawmakers that are denying this to his family.

On the other hand the true reason not stated in the original article is that the Wicca religion is a controversial religion and always will be as long as time exists because the very nature of being associated with witchcraft. They said ..he said...

The VA needs to clean their own house before they can say who deserves what.

07-07-06, 05:17 PM
Rules in Washington are broke on a daily basis. The very own lawmakers that are writing the rules and putting them into policy are breaking the rules and then rewriting them to fit the agenda of the day.

I do hope you are not implying that we all should emulate the fed. gov't and go around breaking rules. Especially, in order to accomodate one person as they so often do.

07-07-06, 05:36 PM
I think honoring the deceased is paramount, first and foremost. What sign he or she carries with them to their final resting place should be of secondary concern. I also believe that the gravestones should just show name, date of birth and death, rank and Armed Force served. That's how I see it but, then again, I am not the VA.

07-07-06, 08:12 PM
It is stated that every service member that dies in combat is granted a resting spot in a Military Grave Memorial. That every Vet is granted this also. It doesn't state that you have to be a certain religion to do so. If it did then it would also state that if you are anything but a certain religion that you'd not have access to join the military. This young man died serving this great nation while enduring a dangerous situation. He probably dreamt, like every-one else, of returning home to his loved ones. But needless to say he isn't able to enjoy his return. Since he sacrificed so much and did give the ultimate sacrifice then he should be granted a Military Gravesite inside the gates of a Military Memorial Graveyard.

The Difference between WICCAN and Satanism is the Diagram and the belief. Not just is both referred to as controvesual but also date back to a time before Christianity. WICCAN is the use of Powers for good and not for evil while Satanism is use of power for evil purposes and the sacrifice of the Two legged animal. Christainity is realtively a young and inexpreniced religion compared to other religions thru out the world. Also one of the most bloodiest and most demanding of the followers. A Christain is told that they will go to Purgatory and then if enough people pray for them they will arise to Heaven. A WICCAN believes something else and a Satanist believes that only in death can they truely be free to join the evil father adn crusade against the army of light. Christainity has forced those who do not wish to follow it into almost oblivion by the use of crusades and Inqustitions against any faith other than itself. While most other religions around were peaceful Chrsitians used religion to gain land and wealth since the days of Christ. It wasn't until Christ stepped forward and denounced these contempting individuals that there was a major change in Christianity. Wiccans were forced to the forest as thier druid ancestors were and the satanists were forced underground to continue thier belief. But the Christian Church was full of PAGANS even to this day and age. There are so many people that worship on Sunday in a church and hold mass and eat the " bread " and drink the wine and on other days worship something else while drinking the blood of another animal or molesting childern. But all they have to do is repent and confess to these sins for them to be forgiven inside a confessional booth to a priest.

But this young man is not granted the very right of a Memorial Gravesite because he choose a different religios belief than that prescribed by some indulging lawmaker. Kind of makes one wonder just who is really making the rules and who is following them. He died serving, he gave his life for his country, and yet isn't deserving a gravesite inside of a Memorial Graveyrad because of his belief. Maybe they should state this on the contract before any-one signs up to join. I think that it would raise a little more than an eye-brow and would come to light as to who deserves a gravesite and who doesn't. If they can stick an atheist inside these gates and cover them with the same ground as a Jewish member or a Christain then they can also put this young man's body to rest inside these gates.

Phantom Blooper
07-07-06, 09:55 PM
I do hope you are not implying that we all should emulate the fed. gov't and go around breaking rules. Especially, in order to accomodate one person as they so often do.

I am not implying anything. The federal government makes rules and doesn't follow the procedures to wit. The federal government makes rules according to who has the biggest pull and purse strings. I would not emulate or ask anyone to emulate any procedures or doctrine that comes out of Washington or any federal agency in the U.S. or it's territories. Accommodation of the law makers is common practice. A man or woman who fought and died and or bled for this motherland should be afforded all the amenities and then some that the head shack in DC see fit to pass into law on a daily basis for themselves or their cronies.<!-- / message --><!-- sig -->

07-07-06, 10:26 PM
It's his wife who will not allow it with-out this symbol of his faith. As most of us would do is let the gov't erect it then apply it themselfs. it would be like letting go of all her resentment...let the sleeping cat lay, The Govt only have certain religous emblems for grave markers...as the gov't is the only way to change is...you change it.VA Offices can provide you a form(va form 40-1330)with the only emblems that can be and will only be imprinted on govt headstones. Use # 3 then put a circle around it later. EAsy to Do just look at it with a circle

07-07-06, 10:38 PM
now i know i'll get alot of flak..but i really don't give a rats A$$.. # 3 is six points and theirs is 5 points; but with the emblem there you (family) can take your own emblem use a little gorilla glue(i mean a little it foams up and spreads easily) a place your wiccka design. There the problem is solved..you may have to return several times till some govt worker gets tired of replacing it ...But as time goes many who follow change his placement as one of the few laid here!! will be just one of many in formation!

07-07-06, 11:10 PM
This "wife" will not let his name go ona a town memorial. This has nothing to do with the VA. This is what the government will/will not allow. The VA allows the following on gravestones and markers: (a vet can get a free gravestone and marker if elligible)Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers

BUDDHIST (Wheel of Righteousness)
HEBREW (Star of David)
UNITARIAN CHURCH (Flaming Chalice)
MORMON (Angel Moroni)
BAHAI (9 Pointed Star)
MUSLIM (Crescent and Star)
CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST (Cross & Crown) Not shown because of copyrights.
MUSLIM (Islamic 5 Pointed Star) Not shown because of copyrights.

No graphics (logos, symbols, etc.) are permitted on Government-furnished headstones or markers other than the approved emblems of belief, the Civil War Union Shield, the Civil War Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and the Medal of Honor insignias.

07-08-06, 09:18 AM
:evilgrin: I agree with all...To my way of thinking, maybe the VA should be "informed"/(if they haven't) (they should be) of many religious other than what they recognize.
What about...."Native American's?" As myself, a Christian, Catholic aka, "Mackeral Snapper" to coin a phrase...(OH NO!! "ETHNIC SLAM?)LOL...(NO, because that's a old common name for us, once well used and accepted and laughed about, not a slam) (sorry got off the subject a bit)...Anyhow....
I practice "smudging", the burning of "sage", used with a feather to "cleanse a person" also used in many Native American Culture's as a "Holy" ritual, ritual to help the sick, i.e. medicine Men, and "HEALER'S." I use a prayer circle/wheel, that is comprised of stones for the "Four Directions", "The Four Season's",The "Four Races", "The Four Corner's of the Earth", as it were.... Always in a clockwise direction, including the "Ritual of the Pipe." "Mother Earth", "Grandfather" (God). I also use "Tobacco" as a "Gift" to Mother Earth. So if I wanted a prayer circle or wheel, put on my VA stone, I wouldn't be able to get it? Even if I died with Valor, with my Dog Tags having, "Religion", "NATIVE AMERICAN", or did I miss that on the list? So basically what I'm getting from this is....Leave your Religion off the VA supplied Stone. Later, you can put on whatever you choose? As far as this Hero's Wife? And the what, "memorial in her home town?, "SHE WON'T LET HER HUSBAND'S NAME GO ON IT, UNLESS THEY ENGRAVE HIS RELIGIOUS BELIEF SYMBOL?" All I can say is this...."SOMETIME'S YOU JUST CAIN'T FIX STUPID", i.e. those with closed mind's. It may not "symbolize" our Nation's "FOREFATHER'S" Belief's and the "faith/religion" Judea Christian, which they claimed in the Constitution as the "Faith Upon Which our Great Nation was "constructed" but, times change. I know CAS that the VA/Gov't has their own thing. I appreciate what you posted, I wasn't even aware of any of those, or those symbol's existed. So, is there some way somebody could contact this "Widow" and explain to her the "reason/ing" of why? Or could somebody contact her home "elected Official's" and explain to them, exactly what this Man's religion was, not as they "think", anything except Judea-Christian, (along with all the other's) so they would give him his "Rightful place of Honor?" Just a thought. "Tohidu" Means...Peace to all "maggot's, or "grub's!!!" SF

07-08-06, 03:31 PM
A religion, is a religion, is a religion. If they allow one, then they should allow the others. I never knew there were so many (including the one I would have used). Why exclude, even if others don't agree or believe. I don't believe or agree with 99% of them, but it is not my buisness what you believe. You are free to do as you choose. That is what is one great thing about America... freedom of religion. My sister is a wiccan and though I do not believe what she does, I would not begruge her of the right to display her symbol. It is as important to her as a Star of David, or cross, or what ever, is to any of the other religions. Who knew there were so many! I had no idea my religion even had one listed! I would not want a cross on mine so I had no idea what I would put, but apparently they had already figured that out for me! LOL

07-08-06, 03:43 PM
:banana: :yes: :no: Well, I know I won't have a stone, as I want "cremated." But if I did have a stone, I'd have an inscription, ...."GONE FISHIN'." Maybe the VA would allow that, ya'll think? LOL. Now carry on Maggot's. SF c

07-08-06, 03:51 PM
"I told you I was sick"

07-08-06, 05:19 PM
"I told you I was sick"


07-08-06, 06:07 PM
10th you sick puppy...made me get the keys all wet!

07-09-06, 08:12 PM
This is also the symbol of Satanists (worshipers of Satan):(

07-09-06, 08:42 PM
This is also the symbol of Satanists (worshipers of Satan):(

Satanist have the star pointed down, while Wiccans have the star pointed up. Big difference. Just ask Christians about the cross being right side up, or up side down...big difference.

07-09-06, 09:36 PM
Sergeant's space left blank

Fallen Guardsman's Wiccan faith unrecognized


FERNLEY -- Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart gave his life for his country when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan in September.

But those wishing to honor Stewart, who should have his name on the memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, 34 miles east of Reno, would have a difficult time doing so.

The space reserved for Stewart, right next to Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, his comrade from Sparks who also died in the attack as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, is vacant.

Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion -- and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward -- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's plaque is installed.

"It's completely blank," Roberta Stewart said, pointing to her husband's place on the memorial.

She said she had no idea the pentacle could not be used on her husband's memorial plaque until she had to deal with the agency after the death of her husband.

"It's discrimination," she said. "They are discriminating against our religion.

"I had no idea that they would decline our veterans this right that they go to fight for," she said. "What religion we are doesn't matter. It's like denying who my husband is."

Patrick Stewart's dog tags, which Roberta Stewart wears around her neck, carry the word Wiccan on them to identify his religious beliefs. But she said he was never told the Wiccan religion was not officially recognized during his 13 years of military service in different capacities.

"By they way, if you die for your country, your religion won't be recognized, that would be nice to know," Roberta Stewart said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its National Cemetery Administration prohibit graphics on government-furnished headstones or markers other than those they have approved as "emblems of belief." More than 30 such emblems are allowed on gravestones and makers in veterans cemeteries, from the Christian cross to the Buddhist wheel of righteousness. A symbol exists for atheists too.

Roberta Stewart said she has decided to make the issue a public one because many Wiccans serve in the armed forces who might want the symbol included on a headstone or memorial marker.

Some Wiccans are private about their religion because of the concern their practices and beliefs might be misunderstood, she said. But Roberta Stewart said she and her husband were strong enough to let their beliefs be known in the community.

Patrick Stewart's religious preferences were made clear at his memorial service, which was held at Rancho San Rafael Park in an oak grove. Some of those speaking at the service talked of Stewart's beliefs and how, while they held different views, respected him for his values. Stewart was cremated, and his ashes have been scattered.

Roberta Stewart said those beliefs state that Wiccans must do no harm, give to the community and worship the Earth.

"I can't see anything bad in it myself," she said.

Community support for Patrick Stewart in Fernley, where the couple bought a home together a year ago, is strong, she said. Stewart's military colleagues are circulating a petition in Afghanistan that supports his right to use the symbol, she said.

She said she wants the memorial plaque at the veterans cemetery because "my husband needs to be remembered somewhere besides in my heart."

While Roberta Stewart is frustrated by the situation, a chance exists that her husband's memorial plaque might be in place soon, with the symbol of his beliefs.

An application seeking recognition of the Wiccan religion, and the use of the pentacle as an emblem of belief on memorials in veterans cemeteries, is working its way through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Rev. Selene Fox, senior minister of a Wiccan group called Circle Sanctuary, said the group filed the application for the use of the emblem with the Department of Veterans Affairs in January by using a new administrative process. The group filed the application with the widow of a Korean War veteran who wanted the symbol for her husband's memorial, she said.

Efforts have been under way for a decade to win the recognition, Fox said.

Speaking by telephone from Wisconsin, Fox said the application has passed through one level of review.

"I truly hope the approval process will come to a quick and successful conclusion very soon," she said. "It saddens me that there is, from my understanding from Roberta, a hole in her husband's memorial where the plaque is to go with the pentacle on it."

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs could not be reached for comment on whether the application will be successful.

Fox said her group has worked to follow every detail of the application process. The 24-page application that was submitted included information showing that the Wiccan religion complied with every requirement the agency has before it would consider the approval of a new emblem of belief, she said.

Roberta Stewart said she is checking with the veterans agency on a regular basis to find out the status of the application.

The couple's daughter, age 12, wrote a letter asking for approval for the symbol's use.

"Why won't you put my dad's religion sign on a plaque," Alexandria Maxwell-Stewart wrote to R. James Nicholson, secretary of veterans affairs, on Feb. 27. "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."

Patrick Stewart, 34, and four other National Guard members died Sept. 25 when their Chinook helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade while returning to their base for refueling. They had finished dropping off troops.

He was a Nevada native, born in Reno on Oct. 21, 1970. He attended Washoe County schools, graduating from Wooster High School in 1989.

He enlisted in the Army after graduation, serving in Desert Storm and in Korea and completed active duty in 1996. He moved to Ohio, where he and his brother owned a construction company.

He returned to Nevada in 2001, where he met his future wife, Roberta, and her daughter, Ali. He is survived also by his son, Raymond Stewart of Spring, Texas.

Patrick Stewart enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard and went to Afghanistan with Task Force Storm in early 2005.

He was posthumously awarded the Air Medal, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Nevada Distinguished Service Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Roberta Stewart said she remains optimistic that the Department of Veterans Affairs will recognize the Wiccan symbol for use in its cemeteries.

"I am going to have faith in my government to do what's right and give us the freedoms that our soldiers have earned for us," she said. "But should they deny it, I will be ready to stand firm on my beliefs."

She said she has held off on contacting members of the Nevada congressional delegation about the issue to give the veterans agency time to act on its own.

"I would like to lay my husband to rest," she said. "Me and the children would like to move on. It's been very traumatic for us. I won't let my husband be blank on a wall for too long."


07-09-06, 09:38 PM
My dad, a WWII Army Veteran use to tell us he wanted this on his tombstone...

"Here lies the shell, the nut is gone!"

07-10-06, 03:15 AM
Thank you "books" for the story.

Why doesn't she have his name on the memorial wall and have the symbol added after it is accepted by VA Cemetary Assoc? She says she wants:

"I would like to lay my husband to rest," she said. "Me and the children would like to move on. It's been very traumatic for us. I won't let my husband be blank on a wall for too long."

07-10-06, 01:35 PM
See i told ya i get som flak from a Gov't worker.... Ya just can't ever get your 2 cents in with out the young intellectual Marines. That's what happen after VN...our younger Jarheads and educated Zero's can't handle expertise leadership...I'v worked the job in the VA for 15 yrs. The problem there is the same mid level management can't handle us ole salts with extended leaderships and experience of previously doing it our way(which works)
The wife needs to take action create her own site with her own funds(then they(govt?city) can't tell her which symbol she can use!

07-10-06, 01:53 PM
For our History buffs... a small bit of info about Civil War headstone!
How can ya tell the difference between the north abd south headstones placed on respected civil war veterans?
hint: shape of the headstone? /\ :idea: correct! S= pointed
N = rounded at the top.

07-10-06, 02:11 PM
Personally, I'd rather be wrapped in linen, burlap, cotton, perhaps maybe a good 60% cotton and 40% synthetic fiber cotton blend, whatever, and then tidyed up and secured and be dropped off shore, but within U.S. Territory. (Buried at sea). That way I will have elliminated the possibility of any loved one or well wisher getting lost on cemetary grounds spending all day trying to find my resting place. All they would have to do is point towards the Atlantic Ocean and say, "He's out there...somewhere."

07-10-06, 02:30 PM
:!: :flag: It's up to the wife-period. If she wants to make a fuss without learning the facts first, it's a sad situation. I said the same thing, "bury the Hero, and if the VA provide's the stone, fine, then put on it later, what she wants. Or forget the VA and do as she pleases. As far as the City Bosses? Well, she'll either have to go along with it, or not. Religious symbol's? What makes the difference? Is it for the "dead" or the living, that's my question. I can't remember seeing anything but a cross, maybe a Saint, or an Angel, or Jesus himself in/near/on a grave stone. Maybe she's tryin' to make a statement? I don't know won't speculate. I just think as I've said. SF to him our "Fallen Brother, may he rest in peace." Amen