The U.S. Army is returning private-sector medallions designed to memorialize fallen American soldiers due to a Bible verse on the back of the items.
According to WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., Bob Parker of the non-profit group “Fallen Friend” has been sending the special medallions to the survivors of soldiers and police officers killed in the line of duty since 1996.
The front side of the medallions features an image of the Liberty Bell and two quotations: “Liberty Rings For All Nations” and “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
The back side says “John 15:13” and “A Fallen Friend,” and it includes a space for the name of the person who was killed.
“That is Jesus’ word, John 15:13,” Parker told the NBC affiliate. The verse states: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Military officials from all branches of the Armed Forces reportedly provided Parker with the names, ranks and addresses of servicemen and women so he could send the items out.
But Parker recently received a letter from the Army, stating the branch would no longer help because of the Bible chapter and verse on the back.
Parker unsuccessfully appealed to the Army about its decision, though the Navy, Marines, and Air Force have continued to help. Those three branches are giving individual families the choice as to whether or not they would like to receive one.
“Now why can’t the Army do that?” Parker asked. “I don’t care if it’s male, female, Greek, Jew, free, bond, pretty, ugly, black-headed, freckle-faced, whatever. They are a human being and they’re dying for the same cause – freedom.”
The Army has returned the last 16 medallions, each of which is packaged in a small black case and velvet pouch.
“I break down and cry when I know that I have had a positive effect on speeding up the healing process of these families,” Parker told the station. “Being able to bring some comfort from the rest of the people of the United States to them, for their great loss.”
No one from the Army returned WBIR’s calls seeking comment.