Never forget – but don’t exclude, either

As a Veteran I would like to thank you for your public service and spirit in the “Never Forget” advertisements in your papers. I appreciate the sentiments to “Keep the men and women who served our country in your hearts.”

I would request that you acknowledge ALL Veterans — Christian and non-Christian like. As one of the non-Christian Veterans who served our country as an Infantryman in Viet Nam, I always feel excluded when I see your ads. The symbols used (soldier kneeling before a cross) does not in any way symbolize all religions or cultures.

I have heard the argument that the cross is a “Roman cross that symbolizes death.” This is correct from an historical perspective, however, the cross now symbolizes the Christian religion. No person, anywhere in the world sees a cross and thinks “Roman symbol of death.” In the same manner, no person in the United States or Europe sees a swastika and thinks “ancient Sanskrit symbol for welfare.” In the 21st Century both symbols represent entirely different meanings from their original.

I did not fight for the Roman Army; I fought for the United States Army and served with Jews, Buddhists, Native American practitioners, atheists, Hindus, agnostics and probably even a few Moslems. The symbols of a soldier kneeling before a cross do not include these religious groups and very specifically exclude them!

I have participated in many Military Funeral and Memorial Services (both in the field and on bases and in cemeteries), and those symbols have never been used. Soldiers stand at attention before an upturned bayonetted rifle, boots, with a helmet on the rifle butt, dog tags hanging. At the end of the ceremony the soldiers offered a hand salute to their fallen comrade. At no point in any of these services were the soldiers ordered (or requested) to “Kneel and Pray.” We were offered a “moment of silence to remember our comrades.”

These are the appropriate, universal, secular and non-sectarian symbols used by the United States Army for Memorial Services. I would appreciate very much your consideration of using these symbols, as a way to honor all Veterans and to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of all Veterans, Christian and non-Christian, believers and non-believers alike.


Allen Auxier