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No Atheists in Foxholes?

Reading the ignorant attacks on atheists over memorials at Virginia Tech reminded me of the old comment about foxholes. If you check the Veterans Administration listing of Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers you will see the atheist “atom” at number 16 and the Humanist “H” at number 32. No atheists in foxholes – hell, that’s where a lot of them are created.

As Melissa noted Wicca is now on the list at number 37. Pretty quick work for the VA.

There is no single answer for grief, everyone deals with in their own way, and no one really knows how anyone else feels, even if they experience the same type of loss. The best you can do is give people the support and space they need to deal with it. If they want to talk, listen. If they don’t, respect their wishes. Give them time, but don’t lose touch.


1 Anya { 04.24.07 at 7:37 am }

“As Melissa noted Wicca is now on the list at number 37. Pretty quick work for the VA.”

Quick work?

It took them 9 years of litigation and threatened litigation to get around to admitting that Wicca is a religion whose adherents deserve military honor. Sure, a Wiccan can serve, have a pentacle on his or her dogtag, and even be allowed to worship on military grounds (as long as they do so out of sight of the public), but if they give their lives, phht! — no longer worthy.

Of course, now those with Pentacles on their grave markers will probably have to be moved to special area of the cemeteries to keep those symbols from offending the families of good Christian soldiers (beside whom those Wiccans may have died…)

2 Bryan { 04.24.07 at 9:35 am }

Anya, I was referring to the time between reaching the settlement and having the symbol on the website. I was checking for atheist symbols for this post and saw the note for the new symbol and found it.

National cemeteries are filled in order of application and the marker comes later.

The last time I dealt with the VA, I used forms that had been replaced by two newer forms since they were issued, but none of the current forms were actually available, so they faked it with the old versions. Progress occurs glacially in the VA, even before the Shrubbery took over.

3 Anya { 04.24.07 at 12:58 pm }

Thanks for the info, Bryan. I was just popping off. With luck, new Wiccan casualties will be treated the same respect accorded to those of traditional (non-)belief systems. It’s seems that maybe they already had the information ready to go at a moment’s notice, given how long it’s taken them to make the decision.

However, there are already 11 Wiccan soldiers interred in assorted military cemeteries across the country. So far, only Sgt. Stewart has his Pentacle — because he was interred in a state cemetery in Colorado, and the state decided to provide his plaque last year. I’m not sure about the status of the others, but I’m keeping my ear to the ground, listening for grumblings from fundagelical groups regarding the presence of Pentacles in “their” cemeteries.

On a personal note, I have yet to visit my parents gravesite in MA to see if my brother ever got around to applying for Dad’s marker. I should do that, huh? I wonder, though, which symbol your uncle would have chosen — if any. He was never especially religious. Must be a family thing. 😉

4 Bryan { 04.24.07 at 1:33 pm }

If there is no marker, go with whatever your Mom would like, that’s why there’s a cross on my Dad’s marker. All you need is a DD-214 and a death certificate. Don’t expect blazing speed, and go to a vet’s group if you get any garbage from the VA.

A pentacle, let me assure you, is not the most “sacrilegious” symbol I’ve seen on a vet’s grave marker, which is why there are regulations in place.

5 Anntichrist S. Coulter { 04.25.07 at 8:02 pm }

I want to see what they do to malign Pat Tillman and his family’s atheism when they put his headstone up.

I betcha $20 that they put a fucking cross on that stone just to fuck his family over even more.

6 Bryan { 04.25.07 at 8:56 pm }

That won’t happen, the family will takes care of that themselves after what the government has done to them.