A death can be a great shock, a shock to a family, a shock to a community, and sometimes a shock to a system that needs it as well. In August of 2012, a death occurred that created a shock to a family, a system, and now a community. While hiking, a 36 year old honorably discharged US Marine Corps Sergeant named Shane passed away. He was a heathen, a follower of the old gods of Northern Europe, a faith that had been passed down to him from his father, another devout follower of those ancient traditions brought anew to the world.
Shane was a young father himself, in the prime of his life. He was dedicated to the sport of soccer, serving as a coach and a mentor to the local children’s team in his home town. He had skills as a writer, something that his ancestors would have lauded, because a skill with words and the keeping of memory was so important to them. Shane was deeply invested in his hometown community and seemed to recognize the deep value of having others close and keeping tight bonds with one’s inner yard. He grew food, and knew how to run a farm.
Shane’s father was a son of the American Northeast, serving honorably in the US Air Force, stationed in Germany during the Conflict in Vietnam. Upon leaving active duty, he served honorably again as a member of the Air National Guard. He had a love of the outdoors, finding solace in the moon light beside a campfire. He loved dancing with his wife, and such a simple love of life can only be seen as elegant in its simplicity.
Each man is now resting under the sign of Thor’s Hammer. In 2009 the directors of The Open Halls Project became dedicated to having that same symbol added to the list of approved headstone emblems that the Veterans Affairs department would approve. This charge began in the wake of the dedicated fight by Roberta Stewart to properly honor her husband SGT Patrick Stewart. A call was sent forth to raise the troops to battle. Those troops responded and took charge of the mission. That battle was fought by a large swath of organizations and groups involved with American heathenry, it was not always perfect, but it was inspiring to see that some barriers could be bridged to fight a higher cause. The troops assembled, they marched forward. We would have THOR’S HAMMER on our stones if we so desired! Then, the VA made a simple change, a change that was good, and sad to see at the same time.
Any new symbol must have an individual pass away before it can be added to the list of approved symbols. This meant we had to lose a heathen service member before we could have Thor’s Hammer available to all. In some ways, this was a victory, something we looked at with pride. We knew that we had made the VA shift, to move its lumbering self enough so that the path forward was clear. It was a path that would require a sacrifice and dedication by a family to honor the request of the fallen. This path was soon faced by Shane’s mother, a woman with courage to face the VA and its mountains of paperwork. This is a daunting task, but her effort with the support of Shane’s friends went forward and was approved. He efforts should be lauded alongside Shane’s own, without her dedication, this fight would have continued on longer. The military family serves alongside their loved ones. Hail to the family, hail to those still here, still living, and still being strong in the face of adversity.
Today, headstones with the Hammer of Thor stand proudly over the heads of both Shane and his father Mark. Two men who dedicated their lives to service. Two men and their family who have caused a shock to the Heathen community.
Semper Fidelis, Marine,
Aim High… Fly – Fight – Win, Airman,
May your deeds be remembered, may your lives be honored and may your families know the esteem you are held in.
The Open Halls Project
*Note, the family of the fallen could not be contacted for a direct statement, the details of this article are from journalistic sources. The VA refrained from providing a direct statement regarding this addition to the list of approved emblems