Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Much ado about nothing?

Imagine you're a soldier. You've volunteered to put your life on the line for your country, to defend the ideals you believe in, that you were raised to believe were right. Imagine you fought in a war on foreign soil, knowing that you were in harm's way to defend the Constitution and the American way.

Imagine a rocket propelled grenade being shot from the ground. That grenade proceeds on a path that intersects with the life of the soldier who has served his country faithfully. After the details are sorted out, the soldier is posthumously awared the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He's flown home to be buried in a veteran's cemetary. Yet, the cemetary denies him something it grants to most, if not all other veterans buried there. The Veteran's cemetary declines to put the symbol of his religion on his headstone. The department of Veteran's Affairs decides his religion isn't real, so they're not going to recognize it like they would other religions.

If the cemetary denied a veteran a cross, or a Star of David, or a Crescent, you would expect a huge public outcry. I'm fairly certain that the Religious Right (not to be confused with Republicans - they AREN'T the same, though it can be hard to tell sometimes) would be all up in arms about how "they're trying to take away our religion!" if crosses weren't allowed. Debates would rage all over the television and the radio. Democrats and/or the ACLU would be vilified as God-haters, or whatever.

But this man didn't practice Christianity. He didn't practice Judiasm. He wasn't a Muslim, or a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Zoroastrianist. He practiced Wiccan. In the country where he was allowed to practice freely, he chose to practice Wiccan, while serving his country, defending his right to practice religion freely. And to honor his dying while protecting that and all other American rights, the department of Veteran's Affairs chooses not to recognize his religion.

This story has a bit of a happy ending for the family, though. The soldier's wife was informed by the state of Nevada, that the symbol of his religion would be included on his memorial plaque. Would it be ironic to state "there is a God, after all," or that the family's "prayers have been answered?" Perhaps we should just be glad that he's getting something closer to equal treatment with the other veterans alongside who he served.

1 comment:

Bellejar said...

The only part of this I find shocking is that a Wiccan joined the service. The government has a schema of second-class religions to be sure. Most of the Wiccan's I knew were pacivists.