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Remembering Patrick Stewart: The First Wiccan Soldier Killed In Combat

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In 2006, if you looked at the wall of brass plaques at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, you wouldn’t see one for Patrick Stewart, the very first Wiccan killed in combat. You would be greeted by a blank space. This was because the Department of Veterans Affairs did not recognize and allow the pentacle to be used as grave-markers for fallen U.S soldiers. This was at a time when they had approved symbols of 38 other faiths like the Mormon angel, the Muslim crescent, and the nine-pointed star of the Bahai, to name a few.

Stewart was 34 and served in the Nevada National Guard when the helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan. He also served in Operation Desert Storm and in the Army in Korea. After his death, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Patrick Stewart was a U. S soldier, and a hero who fought for the United States Constitution. And he was proud of his spirituality. He was proud to be a Wiccan.

As of 2007, a year after his death, the Department of Veteran Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to the list of approved religious symbols that can be engraved on soldiers’ headstones. They acknowledge Wicca as a religion that honors nature and its cycles. Included in the petition was the number of Wiccans in Air Force, which were 1,800! “I was just aghast that someone who would fight for their country and die for their country would not get the symbol he wanted on his gravestone,” said John W. Whitehead, who litigates many First Amendment cases. “It’s just overt religious discrimination.”

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Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States, second to Islam. As of 2001, the number of Wiccans has grown from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000. That is a growth of 143 percent! And as of 2013, the number has grown to 200,000 registered Wiccan practitioners and an astounding 8 million unregistered. As of 2013, Wiccans in the military are allowed to wear clothing and accessories that represents the belief as long as they don’t disrupt order and discipline.

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Although the number of Wiccans are steadily rising and it’s gaining the recognition and acceptance of many institutions, it’s still a hard long battle for many Wiccans out there who are unable to express themselves, with some finding themselves criticized and ostracized.

We at the Moonlight Family provide you a safe place to just be yourself and present you with options on how you can better express yourself. We have come a long way since Patrick Stewart’s passing, and there is still so much more learning and growing together to be done here.

  • Awesome news – every soldier should be able to have their religion, faith walk or spirituality shown on their gravestone, should they be killed in the line of duty. My condolences to his family and kudos to the Dept of Veterans Affairs for doing the right thing!

  • GrouchyOne

    Fascinating story. I guess I never really paid attention to what was going on what with all the religions feeling bashed and bruised. Wiccans just don’t whine as loud, apparently. Thanks for sharing this news.

  • nicsnana

    My son is a practicing Pagan, and has been ever since before he joined the Army. The entire time of his service he has been open about his beliefs and has had no trouble from anyone in the ARMY. I am glad that the solders have been honored finally and am glad to see that the Army at least shows some respect for our Religion.

  • shaktee

    i still have problems here with army and air force being pagan. there is still a fight ahead

  • Jay Martindale

    Religious tolerance is a taboo topic in some areas of the United states. For example your southern states also know as the bible belt. I am in great support believes are what make people tick. I feel the practice I believe what I believe I don’t force it upon others. That was a big step in the right direction to be able to even in death he help pathed away for others to be proud.Thank you to the family for making a stand.Thank you for looking out for the gentle men and making a difference.

  • Lisa Vacula

    Having been a Wiccan since about age of 16 and having heard this story when it first broke in the community, and also as one who shares the family name of Stewart, I thank you for reminding us all of the significant importance of this to our community and country as well as a pause to remember SGT. Stewart for serving his country and our Constitution for Freedom of Religion.. I had to share the post.. I deemed only proper.. Thank you ..

  • Marie Gremillion

    I am 15 years old and live in Alabama, possibly the most notorious state in the Bible Belt. My pagan friends and I cannot wear our pentacles or other religious items outside of our houses for fear of being labeled as “devil worshippers”. I live in a state where there are about two churches on every street, and half of my classmates and teachers wear crosses and hold lengthy religious conversations. I haven’t even told my father of my faith since he screamed at my brother for being atheist, and is constantly telling me I need to go to church more often. My mother, when I told her, laughed at my face telling me that I was just doing this because of all the fantasy shows that I watch. Despite our laws, do we truly have religious freedom?

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