Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Welcome to New Blogger!

Welcome aboard to Bridget Wilson, who is a major Judge Advocate in the CA State Military Reserve, and a veteran of USAR.

Bridget is also a member of Dignity - a group of LGBT Catholics - who celebrate Mass at First UU in San Diego, so she feels like an honorary UU. She also writes,
I am an attorney who in addition to my civil practice handles military law matters. I am always in the hunt for a Unitarian minister or lay minister who would be willing to do military jail visits. There are two major military confinement facilities in the area. I have some clients who could greatly benefit from UU contact. Some of those are gay, and I periodically hear from Wiccans or other“pagans”. It is difficult to get military authorities to acknowledge clergy from gay or pagan groups, but UU, that is something officially recognized by the armed forces. [Sigh, I once had a brig commander tell me he had no intention of allowing “Satanism’ in his brig. You get the drift.] I am happy to exchange info.
Thanks for joining us, Bridget, and we look forward to seeing your posts!

Church of the Larger Fellowship

Yesterday Erika Nonken, of the UUA Public Affairs Office, wrote:

I couldn’t help but notice that the Church of the Larger Fellowship (file:// wasn't included in your list of UU congregations with military members. It has the largest percentage of military members of any congregation, so far as we know, and almost certainly serves the largest number of active UU military service people. If you haven't yet advertised your forum through the Church of the Larger Fellowship, I would encourage you to do so.

Thanks, Erika, for the great suggestion.

Monday, March 27, 2006

UU World Article Ignores Military UUs (Updated 3/29)

How's that for an inflammatory title? I just couldn't resist. :-)

A couple of weeks ago UUMilBlogger Jamie Goodwin let us know about an upcoming UU World article about the third anniversary of the Iraq war. I dutifully contacted the author, and he interviewed me by phone for about 30 minutes. I told him my opinion about how military UUs are viewed by the "average" UU - either with ignorance or antipathy - and some of my experiences. I also told him how in every case when I've encountered someone with a negative attitude about military members, once that person got to know me as an individual, the reaction was always the same: "wow, I had no idea there were people like you in the military!" Sound familiar to anyone else?

The author seemed very interested in what I had to say, so I was really looking forward to an article that would acknowledge and honor military UUs. The end result, however, was a compilation of UU war protests and other events marking the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, with one brief mention of military UUs. I was pretty disappointed.

I don't blame the author - doubtless there are valid reasons why no UU military voices were included in the article. ** But as I told him in an e-mail this morning,

... I think that we UUs in general are actually pretty intolerant when it comes to people who aren't "like" us. This seems to include military members, Christians, political conservatives, and doubtless others. We talk the talk of inclusion and acceptance, but we don't always walk the walk. I wonder if this has influenced the editorial policy of UU World?

This e-mail was in response to his very gracious note to me. He offered his apologies for not being able to include my information in the article, and indicated that they (presumably UU World) will be revisiting the topic of UUs in the military. We can hope.

The upside of this whole episode is that it's reenergized me to continue working toward a military UUA affiliate, as David Pyle introduces here. David, sorry I've dropped out of the picture on this for so long.

We can't rely on others to do our work, so if you value being heard and raising the awareness of the "average" UU about the unique circumstances and challenges of military UUs, please join us.

** UPDATE 3/29 **

After my original post, I got another e-mail from the author, explaining that my one voice was not enough to "bend the story" in the direction of military UUs. So next time UU World solicits input from us, let's give them more voices!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Make Your Voices Heard!

Are you a Unitarian Universalist who is serving or has served in Iraq?

Do you feel that your voice has been muted by your congregation or religious home?

Would you like to contribute to an upcoming article in the UU World magazine?

Please email me at (or link through my profile) so I can put you in touch with someone to make it happen.

This is a unique opportunity for we UUs who are veterans or military members.. as always the more voices that can be heard the better.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fallen Guardsman's Wiccan faith unrecognized


FERNLEY -- Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart gave his life for his country when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan in September.
But those wishing to honor Stewart, who should have his name on the memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, 34 miles east of Reno, would have a difficult time doing so.

The space reserved for Stewart, right next to Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, his comrade from Sparks who also died in the attack as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, is vacant.
Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion -- and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward -- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's plaque is installed.

"It's completely blank," Roberta Stewart said, pointing to her husband's place on the memorial.
She said she had no idea the pentacle could not be used on her husband's memorial plaque until she had to deal with the agency after the death of her husband.

"It's discrimination," she said. "They are discriminating against our religion.

"I had no idea that they would decline our veterans this right that they go to fight for," she said. "What religion we are doesn't matter. It's like denying who my husband is."

Patrick Stewart's dog tags, which Roberta Stewart wears around her neck, carry the word Wiccan on them to identify his religious beliefs. But she said he was never told the Wiccan religion was not officially recognized during his 13 years of military service in different capacities.

"By they way, if you die for your country, your religion won't be recognized, that would be nice to know," Roberta Stewart said.

For full story, click here