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New Organization for Pagan Veterans

April 21, 2009

Word arrived today that a new organization is forming to address the needs and concerns of the Pagan community. According to Valerie Voigt, a mailing list is forming and the organization’s structure will be determined at its first national meeting in November this year.

Given the resistance of the Veterans Affairs to approve a pentacle marker for Wiccans, even as it approved symbols for several other (some with even smaller representation than Wicca) minority religions, it’s not surprising that some Pagan veterans feel disenfranchised enough to organize outside of the mainstream organization. I hope this organization goes a long way in meeting the needs and goals of Pagan vets. However, it would benefit all vets if more Pagans became involved in the VA. Working to meet the needs of Pagan vets outside of the mainstream is great for the short-term, but continuing the battle from within the mainstream will, in the long run, resolve issues of religiously marginalized vets and help set the standard for religious equality.

And now is a great time to work toward that mainstream integration. The last administration’s influence on the decisions of the VA no longer apply. Though I have yet to see statements or evidence that the Obama administration will change the religious standard set in Washington by the Bush administration, the lack of action regarding the National Day of Prayer and its prior emphasis (in the White House, at least) on the Dobson-run task force seems to point in the favor of an easier road for those of minority faiths. In time, perhaps we’ll have a better perspective to judge the state of affairs for military Pagans, whether actively serving or veteran, but for now, I’m glad to see that milpagans have begun the push for equal treatment and representation. I find it sad, however, that the women and men, who fought on behalf of America and our Constitution, now must fight for the equality that Constitution guarantees.

From the Pagan Veterans of the USA:

WHEREAS thousands of Pagan men and women haved served and are serving the United States of America in the Armed Forces;

AND WHEREAS the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, created
to aid and assist veterans of the US Armed Forces, has demonstrated its
unwillingness to aid and assist Pagan veterans

AND WHEREAS the various veterans currently existing in the United States such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and others are heavily grounded in Christianity in their rituals, prayers and practices;

AND WHEREAS Pagan veterans are largely made to feel excluded by these
veterans organizations;

AND WHEREAS all veterans, combat, combat area and others need and
deserve the support of one another, both individually and through a national organization created to serve them and their needs;

BE IT KNOWN that such an organization, Pagan Veterans of the USA is
formed to serve these individuals and their needs, and that membership in this organization is open to any and all members of the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Force, US Air Force and US Coast Guard possessing an honorable or general discharge.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2009 10:35 pm

    I dont understand why every military function has to be started with a prayer. Where is there the seperation of church and state? Isnt that pretty offensive towards non-believers?

    One of the main things I will never understand I guess.

    • Charles Arnold permalink
      May 7, 2009 5:36 pm

      Not all military functions open with a prayer, in fact most do not. The problems we as veterans have is that veterans group meetings almost always include two or three prayers – VFW used three and the Bible plays an important role in initiations of new members.

      That is one of the reasons we are forming a new national organization of Pagan veterans.

      Charles Arnold

  2. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 21, 2009 10:46 pm

    Issued: I agree. It’s always annoying for me to listen to a “non-denominational” prayer at the start of military events. I sit there respectfully, but it irks me that I have to at all considering my attempts to get equal time for Wiccans to use the chaplain facilities have not been given the same respect. In my mind, it’s all or nothing. Give everyone equal time and consideration, or let folks do their religious thing in private.

  3. stephhn permalink
    April 22, 2009 1:19 am

    OK, I know it’s nice to have everyone feel included, but am I the only one who can’t help but picture Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd dancing around in animal skins and trying to protect the Virgin Connie Swale?

    • Charles Arnold permalink
      May 7, 2009 5:41 pm

      Perhaps you might try imagining instead Pagans fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq? How about Pagans dying in helicopters as they try to insert soldiers under fire? Then, of course, there are the Pagans who served in Vietnam, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq, Grenada, Panama and the Pagan National Guard women and men who deal with all sorts of natural disasters. Just a thought.

  4. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 22, 2009 1:42 am

    Stephhn: I’m not sure it’s a matter of who feels included. It’s more a matter of being inundated with a religion that isn’t yours in a government setting.

    Can you explain what you mean by envisioning Hanks and Akroyd dancing? I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

  5. April 22, 2009 3:04 am

    I’m curious, why does the Pagan community need yet another Pagan Troop/Veteran organization? We already have MilPagan.org and Pagan Troop Support (PaganTroopSupport.net, but their MySpace profile is more active).

    • Charles Arnold permalink
      May 7, 2009 5:44 pm

      Because neither of those are real organizations. Pagan Veterans of the United States of America will soon be a reality, a national organization of men and women who meet together at Post, Department and National Level to celebrate who and what we are and to deal with the problems that we, and our community share.

      Are you a veteran of the Armed Forces? If so, why don’t you join us?

      Charles Arnold

  6. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 22, 2009 4:35 am

    I’m guessing they don’t think MPN and Pagan Troop Support (that’s a new one on me – I haven’t heard of them before) serve their needs. MPN definitely focuses more on active duty, so maybe they’re creating a group whose sole focus will be on their needs? It’s a good question to ask.

    • Charles Arnold permalink
      May 13, 2009 2:12 pm

      Thanks for the opportunity to explain. The Military Pagan Network, with which I worked on the Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign, does focus almost exclusively on those still on active duty and it does so in what can best be described as an electronic manner, utilizing the internet rather than face to face meetings. As for Pagan Troop Support, I’ve not heard of them either.

      What Pagan Veterans of the USA plans to do is bring Pagan vets together face to face, to create cameraderie, to dispel the feeling of isolation many Pagan veterans feel, not only from the mainstream but, in many cases, from their own community.

      Something else Pagan vets need is a strong national voice in dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other government agencies. While Wiccans and those who use the Pentacle have won the right to have that placed on headstones, the Heathens and the Druids have yet to win that some consideration, something that Pagan Veterans of the USA will work to achieve on a national level.

      More questions? Just ask.

  7. April 22, 2009 4:38 am

    Pagan Troop Support has been around for a few years now. I can understand if there’s a need for handling not just active-duty folks but the many vets out there… just being more curious than anything at this point.

  8. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 22, 2009 4:48 am

    I wonder if some of these groups form because the others aren’t active enough for the needs of these vets, or perhaps they aren’t public enough with the work they do. The current director of MPN is retired, but it seems like the activities MPN does are active duty focused.

    I don’t know. This would be a good question to ask Ms. Voigt. Why another pagan military group? And while we’re asking, why not work within the current mainstream structure?

    Thanks for the pointer to PTS. I’ll be sure to check them out.

    • Charles Arnold permalink
      May 7, 2009 5:50 pm

      Please allow me to respond in place of my very good and long time friend, Valerie. Pagan Veterans of the United States of America is not another pagan military group, we are a national organization of and for Pagan veterans (including those still on active duty).

      We have created this organization to assist Pagan veterans in dealing with a wide variety of situations, from arguing with the VA to providing services at death. We are here to offer support to one another and to the families of veterans. Rather than an online chat group, we are a collection of real live folks who have all shared the military life and have dealt with both it and the reaction of civilian society to veterans.

      Give us a year or two and then look at what we have been able to accomplish. After all, many of the folks creating this organization are the same ones who were so crucial to the Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign.

      Charles

      • snarkynavywife permalink*
        May 7, 2009 10:02 pm

        Thank you, Charles, for responding to the questions raised in comments!

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