- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

FERNLEY, Nev. (AP) — A war widow who wants the government to put a Wiccan religious symbol on her husband’s memorial plaque held an alternative service Monday as a protest, hours before an official Memorial Day ceremony nearby.

“This is discrimination against our religion,” Roberta Stewart said at the gathering of about 200 at a park east of Fernley for her late husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart. “I ask you to help us remember that all freedoms are worth fighting for.”

A few hours later and a few miles away in this pastoral community east of Reno, official Memorial Day ceremonies were conducted at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

The space under Sgt. Stewart’s name on a memorial plaque remains blank.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to grant the Stewart family’s request to have the Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, placed on the government-issued plaque.

Sgt. Stewart, 34, was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 25 when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

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