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A veterans group is fighting to keep a Bible at the oldest continuing POW-MIA vigil in the country
CONCORD, NH — The veterans group that sponsors the oldest continuing POW-MIA vigil in the country is asking a federal court to allow it to intervene in a case that centers on whether a former POW's Bible can be featured in a lobby display at the Manchester VA hospital.
The Northeast POW/MIA Network is seeking intervenor status in the case, filed by a veteran against the V.A. Medical Center in U.S. District Court, that claims the presence of the Bible in the display is unconstitutional.
New Hampshire members of the group were responsible for creating the lobby display.
Every Thursday evening for 30 years, the group has hosted a vigil in Meredith to honor those who were prisoners of war and to keep alive the memory of those who remain missing in action from America's wars. It also sponsors an annual POW/MIA vigil each June that draws hundreds to the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee to remember those still missing.
Last year, New Hampshire members of the network sought and received permission to place a "Missing Man Table" in the lobby of the VA Medical Center in Manchester. Such displays are meant as a remembrance of service members who were POWs or MIAs.
The Manchester display includes a Bible donated by Herman "Herk" Streitburger, a Bedford man who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II and was captured and held as a German POW before managing to escape. Streitburger, who is now 100 years old, was featured in a recent New Hampshire Sunday News article.
But the display soon drew controversy. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, based in New Mexico, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of veteran James Chamberlain, the named plaintiff, claiming the Bible's display violates the Constitution.
Texas-based First Liberty Institute is representing the Northeast POW/MIA Network in its motion to intervene in the case. In court papers filed Thursday, lawyers described the tradition of the Missing Man Table as dating to the Vietnam War and noted such displays have become permanent features at public forums across the nation, including at a public library in Athol, Mass., and a VA hospital in Wilmington, Del.
Typically, such displays contain symbols of those missing, including a slice of lemon to represent their "bitter fate," salt to represent the tears of their loved ones and an inverted glass signifying their inability to join in a toast.
Last month, in response to a request from First Liberty to clarify the policies governing such displays, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued updated directives stating that "religious symbols may be included in a passive display in public areas of VA facilities."
In a letter to First Liberty, Juliana Lesher, national director of the VA Chaplain Service, said the July 3 directives "are designed to uphold the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ensures that the government does not establish one state religion as well as ensures the free exercise of religious faith by all people."
A pretrial hearing on a motion to dismiss the case is set for Sept. 16.
©2019 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.