VA Headstones Now Include Thor, Crane, Bicycle?

NPR’s Weekend Edition recently noted the increasing variety of “emblems of belief” that are permitted to adorn headstones provided by the Veterans’ Administration:

Don Murphy spent two decades with the National Cemetery Administration. The VA’s list now has 61 symbols, ranging from crosses to a swirling atom to the hammer of Thor.

MURPHY: If the list continues to grow, that is fine. The VA does not question the individual belief system of any eligible veteran or their spouse or dependent.

There are a few requirements. The icon must be dignified and has to lend itself to being carved in stone, but beyond that, the definition of belief is fairly broad. And according to military chaplain Nickolas Gaines, more and more, that’s how belief is.

VA’s Sandhill Crane

The addition of Thor’s Hammer was noted here a few years ago; that addition apparently inspired a couple of “heathens” to continue their quest for official recognition of their “faith.”

The article discusses the story of Linda Campbell, a retired Air Force LtCol who is apparently homosexual, and the process in getting a “sandhill crane” approved as an “emblem of faith” for her partner, Nancy Lynchild. This story has actually been covered a few times before, with Campbell previously saying she

decided on the Sandhill Crane, a bird that has come to represent the ability of a soul to move between worlds, realms, times, traditions, and elements. “It’s the perfect symbol for Nancy,” Linda said.

When initially asked what symbol she wanted, Campbell said Lynchild replied

Oh, maybe a bicycle. And I said, you know, I don’t think they’re going to go for that.