I just received a call from the office of the Honorable Duncan Hunter. The office inquired with the VA and the VA has agreed to recognize the pentagram as a symbol of the Wiccan religion. They will be installing the symbol on Sgt Patrick's headstone prior to shipment.
Duncan Hunter's office ackowledged that Wicca was regognized as a religion by the U.S. government in 1984, and he used a very respectful and apologetic tone when admitting that not many people were aware of the religion and its significance to its practitioners. The gentleman, Cal, who identified himself as senior relations for the office, seemed a little embarrassed by the VA's confusion and assured me that they encouraged the representatives of Nevada to get this taken care of.
Not bad for a bunch of Republicans. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything from their office. Barbara Boxer (Democrat) has never called me on an issue I've raised to her.
This experience has taught me two things:
1. It pays to be a registered voter and to write to your congress representatives about issues.
2. Not all Republicans are jerks.
The original letter I wrote to both of my congress representatives follows:
It has come to my attention that Mrs. Roberta Stewart of Nevada is having difficulty getting an appropriate marker for her veteran husband's grave.
As reported by the Reno Gazette Journal, "She is the wife of Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick, Stewart who was killed in combat Sept. 24, 2005 when a CH 47 Chinook helicopter he was in crashed on a support mission in Afghanistan."
Mrs. Stewart and her husband, Patrick, were both practitioners of the Wicca religion. This is a religion that was acknowledged by the U.S. government in 1984. The symbol of the Wicca religion is the pentagram: a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle. This is an ancient symbol of protection that has deep meaning for Wiccans.
Mrs. Patrick was supposed to hear from the Veteran's administration in February as to whether the symbol of her husband's religion would be allowed on his grave marker. Earlier requests were denied.
Having served in the U.S. Air Force for six years myself, and having had Wicca stamped on my dog tags, I am very much dismayed by the VA's decision to first deny and then ignore Mrs. Patrick's request. This is morally and Constitutionally unacceptable.
Athiests have symbols on their veterans' grave markers. Jews have them. Christians have them. Muslims have them. And, a number of obscure religions I've never heard of have them. I do not understand why the VA will not honor the Patrick family's request.
Please inquire with the representatives of Nevada as to why this is so, and please let them know that this Wiccan veteran is perterbed by it. Please also contact the VA and instruct them to comply with the wishes of Mrs. Patrick.