Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wiccan Memorial Day

By Cernig

On this memorial day, a long saga will come to a quiet close as, finally, the graves of Wiccan veterans will get their grave markers. It's been a long time coming, due to the insensitivity of Bush administration officials scared stiff of extremist Christians (like the Decider In Chief).

As the AP reminds us, it wasn't just about honoring the dead of recent wars.
Since Korean War veteran Jerome Birnbaum died in 2005, his grave in a pagan cemetery had been marked with only a pile of stones and U.S. flags.

On Memorial Day, Birnbaum's grave and those of other military veterans will be dedicated with government-issued markers etched with a symbol of their religion - the Wiccan pentacle.

Wiccans sued the government last year, arguing that it was unduly stalling a decision on whether to add the pentacle to the list of acceptable symbols for veterans' graves.

A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans added the five-pointed star to the list of ``emblems of belief.''

``I like to see our success literally etched in stone, because it will be,'' said Birnbaum's wife, Karen DePolito. She said winning the fight is vindication for all Wiccans.

...Circle Sanctuary, located in Barneveld, Wis., about 25 miles west of Madison, will be home to three grave markers - more than any other place in the country, high priestess Selena Fox said.

Arlington National Cemetery will have two markers. A World War II veteran's marker was dedicated Wednesday, and a ceremony for another Wiccan veteran was planned for July 4, Fox said.

The VA said five pentacle markers have been delivered since the April 23 settlement with one more request pending. Fox said she knows of 12 requests that are going to be made to the VA.

...Among those attending the dedications will be Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 when the Nevada Army National Guard helicopter he was in was shot down. Stewart's ashes were mostly scattered, but some are at the Wiccan cemetery.

``To me it shows that our Veterans Administration is hopefully going to think twice before they discriminate the next time,'' she said of the settlement. ``They don't get to pick and choose our soldiers' faith.''

The widow of a third veteran receiving a marker, A. Douglas Wilkey, also planned to be at Monday's ceremony. Wilkey, who died in 2003, served in both Korea and Vietnam.
Blessed be.

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