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07-04-06, 08:11 PM #1
Veteran's Affairs refuses to give dead soldier wiccan symbol on military gravestone
Roberta Stewart will return with her husband to the circle cast for their wedding ceremony almost two and a half years ago.
The six cords that bound the couple's hands together in the traditional Wiccan hand fasting ceremony are buried there in the Virginia Highlands.
It is where Stewart says she will scatter his remains.
"Our cords are buried up there so it's a very sacred spot to us," the Fernley resident said.
Stewart's husband, Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart, died on Sept. 25 when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan. Both were Wiccan before they met.
"But we jointly came out together and stood strong for our spirituality upon our marriage," she said. "Alone we didn't want to take on society or our community. Together we can take on anything."
When her husband found out the military recognized Wiccan, Stewart said he changed his dog tags, declaring his faith.
"That's when he started sharing with his fellow soldiers," she said. "They questioned us a lot. The soldiers are comrades. It's really irrelevant what your beliefs are when you are a soldier."
His buddies who were on a training mission on the day of his wedding stopped by to say "hi" by flying their Chinook over in a figure eight, she said.
Stewart is now taking on the Veterans Affairs Department and its National Cemetery Administration because it refuses to use the Wiccan symbol on the memorial plaque at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley.
There is an empty space on the wall to the right of Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, of Spanish Springs, who also died in the crash. It will remain vacant until the VA recognizes Patrick Stewart's religion, and she can have the five-pointed star enclosed in a circle below his name, she said.
"John Flynn's wife asked that they keep that place next to her husband," she said. "Our boys died together. They should be memorialized together. She's Christian."
Several from the Pagan community of Northern Nevada attended the rite of passing ceremony and are extending their support to Stewart.
Laura Fitzpatrick, who also lives in Fernley, said she did not know Stewart before the memorial service but is doing what she can.
"Everybody supports it," said Fitzpatrick, a witch whose Pagan name is Summer Wolf. "This is a breakthrough for others to have their faith recognized. We signed petitions. We wrote letters to our state representatives, the Senate."
Margie Ewen of Reno said she remembers sending a care package to Patrick Stewart when he was deployed to Afghanistan.
"I didn't even know he was Pagan at the time," she said.
Ewen said she is aware of six Pagans from Northern Nevada who are currently deployed in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
"I'm guessing there's a lot more," she said.
Stewart said she and her husband were natural spiritualists who blended Celtic, Buddhist and American Indian traditions into their faith system.
"It's part of our life," she said. "It's who we are. We rock hunt, we arrowhead hunt, we do archery. We go hiking."
The altar in her living room is positioned below a photograph of Patrick Stewart walking in the open, dressed in a chocolate suede fringed jacket and knee- high boots. A dusty rose box she called a spirit box contains his remains, for now. Next to the Celtic cross are rocks they felt had energy on their adventures.
There is a book on a side table -- "Widowed Too Soon."
07-04-06, 09:24 PM #2
I guess by Wiccan symbol they mean the pentagram? Personally, I don't see why not. He died for his country- he should have the right to have whatever he wants on his gravestone.
Since "Jedi" is a recognized Austrailian religion, does that mean if they die they get a light saber on their gravestone?The virtue of spirit has no need for thanks or approval. Only the certain conviction that what has been done is right. -Jor El, as played by Marlon Brando
07-04-06, 09:27 PM #3
He should have it.. especially as it is a recognized religion by the Army itself.Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft. -
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
07-04-06, 10:03 PM #4Originally Posted by MisterK
I don't think that, as a Christian, I'd have a leg to stand on with regard to keeping a crucifix on a public building if this guy's wish is denied.
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