Transcript for the Piece Audio version of Wiccan Memorial Day Service
Length 3:06 + :04 ambi tail of forest
For years, Wiccans and the U-S Department of Veterans Affairs sparred in court, over having Pentacles on soldier's headstones, which some people consider Satanic. But a recent settlement finally allowed it, delighting Wiccans. Yesterday, an inaugural ceremony near Barneveld commemorated three fallen Wiccan soldiers whose markers have the newly-approved, controversial symbols. Brian Bull reports:
[FADE UP DRUMMING]
About 60 Wiccans from across the U-S marched up a hill at the Circle Sanctuary, behind flag bearers and a drummer. At the top, were markers for Patrick Stewart, Jerome Birnbaum, and Douglas Wilkey, who collectively served in Operation Enduring Freedom, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Mourners sang the national anthem, lead by Wiccan Priestess Selena Fox.
[FADE OUT DRUMMING, BRING UP AMBI OF STAR SPANGLED BANNER..."...at the twilight's last gleaming...."]
Each headstone has a five-pointed star contained in a circle, known as a Pentacle. Four Wiccan ministers invoked the elements of earth, wind, fire, air, and spirit that the Pentacle represents:
[Invocation.mp3: "We welcome and greet the power of earth....deep....roots....living trees, green grass, and stones.....that are her bones."
Sandra Wilke of Kentucky says her late husband, Douglas, earned this honor. She bristles at the misperceptions some people have about her religion:
SWilke01: "A Wiccan is a witch! Bad! Satan! Witches should be burned!" (laughs) (:05)
Many Wiccans say that association is what kept the Pentacle from being approved as a marker symbol. Many Evangelical Christians have either called Wicca witchcraft, or a non-religion. But Jeremy Espil, a comrade of Sergeant Patrick Stewart and a Roman Catholic, says his friend didn't serve and die in Afghanistan just to have his gravestone spark controversy.
JEpsil01: "I think it's a real shame. Any religion should have its fair stand. I'm just glad to see that it's come true and that we were able to show that all faiths can be united in religious freedom." (:11)
Karen DePolito, Jerome Birnbaum's widow, agrees. The Utah resident hopes that having the Pentacle among 38 other accepted marker symbols will counter critics of her faith.
KDePolito01: "We've established that we are a real religion in spite of what anyone in our Administration might say." (:07)
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As people placed flowers on the graves, a musician played the Hammer-Dulcimer. A serviceman then shot three rifle volleys......
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And then came, "Taps" on the trumpet.
[TAPS ON TRUMPET FOR A FEW BEATS, THEN FADE]
Roberta Stewart stood by her husband Patrick's marker, which was flanked with an American flag retrieved from the wreckage of his Chinook helicopter. The Nevada widow said she was happy to have the Pentacle controversy resolved, so her husband could finally rest in peace.
RStewart01: "I think the service was beautiful, wonderful, and I think our soldiers would be proud. They will all put their lives on the line, and as comrades all together, no matter what, they will have each other's backs regardless of their faith." (:11)
For Wisconsin Public Radio, I'm Brian Bull in Barneveld.Back