I happen to belong to two different veterans organizations and when I say different I mean different!
I’m a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, an organization started at the beginning of the 20th century to serve the needs of veterans of the Spanish American War.
I also belong to Pagan Veterans of the United States of America, an organization founded just this year to help meet the special needs and desires of Pagan veterans.
The VFW has hundreds of thousands of members, Pagan Vets has less than a dozen.
The VFW has literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in its accounts at the moment and can raise several million within a week or two. Pagan Vets doesn’t even have a bank account and already owes money it doesn’t have.
The VFW has over a thousand Posts across the country and even a few outside of our borders while Pagan Vets has yet to establish its first Post.
The VFW, like the American Legion and other mainstream veterans groups, has a whole lot of political clout. Not only does Pagan Vets not have any political power, most of those involved on the fringes don’t want it to have any.
The VFW is organized, its meetings are structured, it is accepted within society as a whole. Pagan Vets isn’t.
But Pagan Vets as an organization doesn’t point the a Bible and tell members that it is the “font of all wisdom.” The VFW does.
Pagan Vets members know religious discrimination when they see it. Most members of the VFW are completely oblivious.
OK, trying to create a Pagan veterans organization is like doing anything else in the Pagan community; the herding cats analogy definitely applies. And, if anything, Pagan Vets has a harder time.
American society as a whole generally respects veterans, with the exception of a decade or two during the late 20th century when we were seen as subhuman “baby killers” and “losers.” But, since 9/11 American veterans have been appreciated, even admired by society as a whole. But the Pagan community is not society as a whole. Here we seem to have a few folks who appreciate the service that veterans have given and at least an equal number who want nothing to do with veterans.
Just last weekend, while I was handing out information on Pagan Veterans USA at the South Jersey Pagan Pride Day I had a young lady who was vehemently opposed to anything that she thought was in any way related to the military, including veterans. She nearly threw my information sheets in my face. And she isn’t alone.
Friends, let me try to put it simply; we all have the right to our religions and for that we should all, each and every one of us, thank a veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
But back to the point. While I belong to both the VFW and PVUSA and have positions of responsibility with both, the majority of my efforts will go to Pagan Vets because I know what it feels like to belong to an organization where, while there are many similarities, there are differences so basic, so complete, that no one else in my Post, my Department or even National has any understanding of them or even knows that they exist.
Yes, I want to see an organization where I can find cameraderie, not only with veterans with whom there is shared experience but with Pagans, where I can relax and feel at home; not like a stranger who muct keep so many parts of my self secret in order to fit in at least a little