On today’s Memorial Day in the United States, the tombstones honoring those who died while in the military service will be decorated with flags throughout the country, particularly in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Although the lines of marble and granite headstones appear uniform, overwhelmingly carved with Christian crosses, look closer and you might spot an atomic whirl circling an “A” for atheist, an infinity symbol, or a Shinto torii gate. In recent years, the freedom of religious expression for soldiers and their families in choosing an “emblem of belief” for their monuments has majorly expanded, but not without some lawsuits.
The National Cemetery Administration’s list of 65 available emblems was last updated in January of this year, with the Druid Awen showing three beams of light radiating from three points. Just a decade earlier, in 2007, the Wiccan Pentacle was approved only after a lawsuit by the national ACLU and the ACLU of Washington that followed Wiccan family and clergy requests that had been refused since the mid-1990s. Anyone can request a new emblem, although the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states they cannot include “social, cultural, ethnic, civic, fraternal, trade, commercial, political, professional or military emblems” as well as nothing explicit or “pandering in nature.”
For every new emblem, whether the floral pomegranate (#59) or the indigenous Medicine Wheel (#48), there are loved ones who rallied for giving their deceased a burial that best reflected their lives. For instance as John Brownlee reported for Fast Company, the Hammer of Thor approved in 2013 came through the mother of a Marine Corps sergeant who wanted to honor their Odinist family. In 2015, Deena Prichep reported for NPR on a dancing sandhill crane that’s now the 57th emblem. Linda Campbell, an Air Force and National Guard veteran, wanted an emblem to celebrate her wife Nancy Lynchild, and they petitioned for the bird as a “beautiful symbol of wisdom and protection and a happy marriage.” NPR reported at the time that since the approval of the sandhill crane, 300 had been requested.
These emblems tell a narrative beyond the name and rank on the headstone. People of all faiths, or lack thereof, have served in the armed forces, given their lives, and come to be remembered in these places, and that story is there to read in the stone.
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Ten Painful Stories of the Dutch Colonial Slave Trade
The Rijksmuseum’s traveling show strives to remind us that we are all, in some way, a part of this chapter of human history, whose legacy continues today.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
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Textured Histories at Shiprock Santa Fe
The Santa Fe gallery features Indigenous textiles and jewelry from the early 19th century to today.
Renaissance Portrait of “Ugly Duchess” Likely Depicts a Man
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NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
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An edition of the iconic woodblock print broke records when it sold for $2.8M this week.
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Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
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The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
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This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?