Seventh-day Adventist Logo now officially recognized as an emblem of belief by the Veteran's Administration.
by Michelle Miracle, Communication/Sabbath School Director for the Iowa-Missouri Conference
Burton Dye's headstone with SDA Logo - Photo by Michelle Miracle
In late 2005 church member, Rosalee Dye contacted the Iowa-Missouri Conference office with a request to send a copy of the official Seventh-day Adventist logo to the Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville, Missouri so it could be etched on her husband, Burton’s headstone. Since the headstone was about to be made, I rushed a fax off to the Missouri Veterans Cemetery with the black and white logo they needed. A few days later I got word from the cemetery director that the Adventist logo could not be put on Burton’s headstone because the logo was not on the Veterans Administration’s official “Emblems of Belief” list. In order to get our logo on the list I needed to supply the VA, via the Missouri Veterans Cemetery, with very specific documentation regarding the validity of our organization.
I was a little surprised that this process didn’t appear to have ever been initiated by the Church, so I decided it was time. In gathering the requested information I learned that an organization cannot on its own start the process to add their emblem to the list; a written request from the next of kin of a deceased veteran has to come first. As Mrs. Dye had already started the process, we as a Church needed to submit a letter, signed by a primary contact person, that certified the emblem was widely used and recognized as our official logo.
I contacted the late Reger Smith Jr., then Director of Public Relations at the General Conference, and enlisted his help in compiling the necessary documents, including the Letter of Certification. Once the pile of papers with very detailed information about the establishment of our church, our beliefs, organizational structure and worldwide membership stats was mailed, I patiently waited for a response.
What ensued were two years of phone calls and e-mails to the person in charge of the Emblem of Belief Management at the VA. I was assured on every occasion that our paperwork had been received and would be reviewed for approval. In 2007 I found out that the VA began the process of changing the way Emblem of Belief requests were evaluated and as a result, our request had been tabled.
All throughout this process I had been speaking with my dad, a Vietnam Veteran and Clinical Social Worker/Team Leader for the Citrus Heights, CA Vet Center, about the lack of progress. He assured me that just because the wheels of the VA turn slowly, it didn’t mean they weren’t turning.
In 2009, after two more years of waiting, being in regular contact with the VA, I was ready for a new strategy. My dad suggested that to get the wheels turning faster I should enlist the aid of a Senator. I wrote to Iowa Senator and Navy Veteran, Tom Harkin asking him to help in any way he could with the Church’s emblem request.
His staff was very helpful and asked for detailed information about our submission. A letter was written and signed by Harkin asking the VA about the status and reason for delay of our emblem request. The VA wrote back to Harkin and explained that until the changes to the Emblem of Belief evaluation process were approved, the Church would have to wait for a decision.
I had to wait another year to see this six-year request come to fruition. In March, 2010 Rosalee Dye received a letter from the VA stating that the rules had changed and now any emblem, whether on the official list or not, could be requested to be etched on a headstone. Only the descedent’s next of kin can make the request, and once approved, the VA only needs a black and white digital image of the logo.
Rosalee wrote me and asked if I would e-mail the VA our logo. I had tears in my eyes as I read the letter, praising the Lord for His goodness and the patience He granted me throughout the trying process. Less than a year, later the Seventh-day Adventist logo was etched on Army Lt. Burton Dye’s headstone. Dye served in the United States Army for 16 years, four of those years overseas during WWII, and to the best of my knowledge his is the first headstone to receive the logo.
Being content with the VA’s approval of Mrs. Dye’s request and uncertain that the logo would ever be added to the official Emblem of Belief list, I stopped checking the VA website for updates. Until March, 2011, when I visited the site and cried again as I saw that the Adventist logo was finally on the official list. Meaning that the Adventist logo is available to be etched on any headstone of a veteran buried in a national, state veteran's, or military post/base cemetery. The decedent's next-of-kin, a person authorized in writing by the NOK, or a personal representative authorized in writing by the decedent can request that the logo be added to any past or present headstone. You can find out more about the process to add the logo at: www.cem.va.gov
I want to thank Rosalee Dye for the service of her husband Lt. Burton Dye, my father and all other veterans for their selfless sacrifice, because freedom isn’t free and you are not forgotten.