updated 9/13/2006 8:50:25 PM ET 2006-09-14T00:50:25

The widow of a Nevada soldier killed in Afghanistan nearly a year ago won state approval Wednesday to place a Wiccan religious symbol on his memorial plaque, something the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to do.

"I'm just in shock," Roberta Stewart said from her home in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.

"I'm honored and ecstatic. I've been waiting a year for this," she told The Associated Press.

Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, was killed in Afghanistan last Sept. 25 when the Nevada Army National Guard helicopter he was in was shot down. He was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which the Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize and therefore prohibits on veterans' headstones in military cemeteries.

The new development came Wednesday when state veterans officials said they had received a legal opinion from the Nevada Attorney General's Office that concluded federal officials have no authority over state veterans' cemeteries.

As a result, they intend to have a contractor construct a plaque with the Wiccan symbol to be added to the Veterans' Memorial Wall in Fernley.

"The VA still has not determined yet if a Wiccan symbol can go on the headstone," said Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services.

"But we have determined we control the state cemetery and that we therefore have the ability to recognize him for his service to his country," he told AP.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments