Post Memorial Day thoughts

Memorial Day left me thinking.

Eventually, hopefully no time soon, I’ll be eligible for interment in a national cemetery.  After all, I am a veteran – having served in the U.S. Army for almost 10 years.

For most of my adult life I simply assumed I would be cremated and my ashes would be spread somewhere; however, the older the I get, the more inclined I am to occupy a plot of land when I’m gone and join the ranks of my brothers and sisters buried in a Veteran’s Cemetery.

I admit, I kind of like the idea of having a marker erected that acknowledges I was once around on this planet.  As a genealogy hobbyist, pictures of ancestors’ headstones are as nice to have as pictures of when they were alive.

So, I went looking for prospective headstones my good Uncle Sam provides and take a look at the process of obtaining said marker.  Interestingly enough, the paperwork is not meant to be filled out by the veteran (so much for funeral planning), but by the next of kin.  [If you’re a veteran, reading this, and have interest in how your remains are marked – here’s the form]

Longtime friends and readers know well that I’m an atheist.  I wanted to see what options were available.

I was a little concerned at first, since my emblem wasn’t pictured, but I scanned down to see it listed among the other smaller denominations, sandwiched between Bahai and Muslim.  There it was:  ATHEIST (16)!

I was pretty sure there was an associated graphic file for “16.”  Another google search turned it up:

Yep – there it is.  The only VA-approved emblem fit for a godless headstone.

Yes, I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping for something with a bit more subdued flair, like the Scarlet A I’ve grown accustomed to.

Before rushing to judgment, I decided I needed to learn the origins of the “Atomic A.”  (I may be an unbeliever, but I don’t have all the keys to the executive unbeliever washrooms).  Turns out that this is the official symbol/logo of American Atheists founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

From their website, here is the meaning behind the symbol (hey – if it’s going to be planted over my dead body, I want to know…)

When American Atheists was formed in 1963, a contemporary scientific symbol was chosen; this acknowledges that only through the use of scientific analysis and free, open inquiry can humankind reach out for a better life.

Recognizing the new atomic era, but also emphasizing the truths of older scientific findings, the atomic whirl was chosen. The atom is still a distinguishing unit of all matter, the smallest particle of an element that can exist and still retain the properties of that element.

You may notice that one of the orbital in our symbol is broken, or open-ended. This demonstrates that while Atheists rely on the scientific method for learning about the cosmos and increasing our knowledge about nature, we know that \not all of the answers are in.  We recognize that with new knowledge come new questions and areas for human inquiry and exploration.

That open orbital forms an \A\ to represent Atheism. The small letter in the center represents of the first letter of the country in which an affiliated group is located. In our case, the \A\ signifies American, and the symbol thus represents American Atheists.

Actually, it is kinda cool, and it represents me.  I think I’ll be pretty happy having that planted over my corpse as long as this country continues to honor its’ dead.  It looks pretty good on this guy:

Of course the beauty of the headstone (as opposed to a simple marker), is that my wife Ellen will go on the other side of the headstone.

She thought the Atomic A was pretty cool right off the bat, but when she saw the other choices, she settled in right away on the American Humanist emblem (#32 for those keeping score at home).

Of course we are, hopefully, several decades away from making this decision, but Memorial Day does serve as a reminder that this day will eventually arrive.  Planning for it, and how you wish to be remembered for the life you led and the principles you held to is not a bad thing.

The next thing we need to work though is figuring out where in this country we want that headstone planted.  Right now, we’re thinking Fort Logan, Colorado…[Brandon – if you’re reading this – pay attention!  You’ll be in charge of making this happen :)]

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