May 6, 2021
The May/2021 issue of At Ease magazine included a cover photograph of traveling memorial created by the private organization Veterans & Athletes United (VAU) while on display at the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg. The VAU website describes their Fallen Heroes Memorial:
This 28 foot wide by 6 foot tall American flag symbolizes the shape of the flag when draped on a fallen service members casket. It is formed of approximately 7000 dog tags of all those who have fallen in the War on Terror. There are 50 gold stars honoring all gold star families nationwide. Displayed in front of the flag is a battle field cross sculpted from mahogany wood by veteran artist Alicia Dietz.
In addition to this description, the VAU Fallen Heroes Memorial also prominently displays the following biblical passage as part of the memorial’s symbolism (i.e. the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities):
John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Several MRFF clients requested assistance in responding to this extraneous religious content essentially branding a memorial for fallen members of the U.S. Military. MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein immediately contacted the Executive Director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH) to point out the obvious religious branding of this otherwise outstanding hallowed memorial to fallen U.S. combat casualties:
…..sir, please just imagine if a passage of the Koran or the Book of Satan or Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” (all of which are as equally protected under America law as the Christian New Testament is) had been specifically and boldly referenced and displayed in the same clearly vivid manner as that John 15:13 reference!!…
…not everyone in the U.S. military is a devout Christian…although many of them are among MRFF’s complainants on this matter to their credit!!..
To their credit, the Executive Director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History (which falls under TRADOC- U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) immediately recognized the significance of this issues and responded:
In the coming days, we will be communicating with the entire AME staff about how to address religious content in displays in a legal and equitable [emphasis added] manner. We are also communicating with TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command] regarding the recommendation that the publisher retract the issue of At Ease with the image on the cover. While CMH cannot direct that retraction, we are communicating with the people who can make that decision.