Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
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.
Two people, including a U.S. Marine Corps member, were arrested over the weekend and accused of distributing drugs to service members and civilians in North Carolina.
It has been a deadly year for Green Berets, with every active-duty Special Forces Group losing a valued soldier in Afghanistan or Syria.
A total of 12 members of the Army special operations forces community have died in 2019, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. All but one of those soldiers were killed in combat.
In Afghanistan, Army special operators account for 10 of the 17 U.S. troops killed so far this year. Eight of the fallen were Green Berets. Of the other two soldiers, one was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group and the other was a Ranger.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Documents from the Pentagon show that "far more taxpayer funds" were spent by the U.S. military on overnight stays at a Trump resort in Scotland than previously known, two Democratic lawmakers said on Wednesday, as they demanded more evidence from the Defense Department as part of their investigation.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the heads of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee and one of it subcommittees said that while initial reports indicated that only one U.S. military crew had stayed at President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort southeast of Glasgow, the Pentagon had now turned over data indicating "more than three dozen separate stays" since Trump moved into the White House.
QUANTICO, Va. -- Marines who spend much of their day lifting hefty ammunition or moving pallets full of gear could soon get a helping hand.
The Marine Corps is close to signing a deal to test an exoskeleton prototype that can help a single person move as much as several leathernecks combined.
The Air Force is working on a ‘flying car’ to replace the V-22 Osprey — and it could take flight sooner than you think
'Agility Prime' sounds like a revolutionary new video streaming service, or a parkour-themed workout regimen, or Transformers-inspired niche porno venture.
But no, it's the name of the Air Force's nascent effort to replace the V-22 Osprey with a militarized flying car — and it's set to take off sooner than you think.