Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Customized Military ID Tags

I was reading through the stories on Military.com this evening, and came across a story on the young soldier, now facing a court martial, who leaked classified information to Wikileaks.com. The story made me sad in so many ways… sad that this young man felt he had to do this, sad that he felt so isolated, sad that he broke his oath, sad that the video he leaked happened. I know others are angry at this young soldier, and still others believe him to be some kind of hero… to me, the whole story just seems sad.

Something in the story, however, reminded me of something that I have considered writing about before, and never remembered to do so. The story comments that this soldier had “customized” military ID tags (dogtags) that read “Humanist”. Now, that makes me sad that I never got to meet him, never had the opportunity to serve as his chaplain. I find it a little hinky that the story had to lead with the fact that this soldier who did such a stupid thing was a “humanist”… but that is beside the point I want to write about.

You see, I too have “customized” military ID tags. My tags say “Unitarian Univ.” “Customized” means that I went to a civilian military supply store, and with my own money purchased military ID tags that said Unitarian Univ. (all the room there was).  Another colleague told me this he has two tags, one says Unitarian and the other says Universalist.

So, why did I have to do this? Because the issue military ID tags that I received at the U.S. Army Chaplain School came back reading “Other”.

Yes, at the chaplain school, the military bureaucracy declared my religious faith to be “other”.

Now, it was a bit of a shock to me. I have found out that “other” Unitarian Universalists who attended the Chaplain School also were issued ID tags that read “other”. One of them and I joked that we are going to form the “First United Church of Other”… just so we can be comfortable wearing those ID tags. I never put on the ID tags that declared my faith to be “other”… I just went off-post and had a new set made.

I still have them though… they are with the rest of my military gear, as a reminder.

So, to all of those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians who have to go off-post/base to have a set of “customized” ID tags made that reflect your religious faith… know you are not alone. There are even a few Chaplains among you.

Yours in Faith,

Rev. David

8 Thoughts on “Customized Military ID Tags

  1. David – that must be an Army thing with the dog tags.

    My Air Force dog tags said “Unitarian” on them when I attended OTS in 1983. They were the government-issued dog tags and not “customized” one.

    Take care,

  2. Thank you Steve…. It is good to know that the Air Force did it right….

    Yours in faith


  3. The Corps of Engineers had a blank space to enter Religion and I put down protestant as pretty generic, and I didn’t want a rush to get me last rites if it came to that… in hindsight, “other” would have been a good choice… better than “humanist” which always seems stuck in about 1952 to me.

  4. What is the deal with the Christian insignia, don’t you have a UU insignia to use. I know you identify as a Christian, however, I think establishing a UU brand in the Military is necessary.

  5. Writing as an active duty Army chaplain, it is important that a soldier’s I.D. tags reflect as accurately as possible his or her religious preference. For Army chaplain’s, the purpose of the I.D. tags are to assist us in ministering to soldiers who are non-communicative on the battlefield. Our mission is to “Bring God to people and people to God.” It helps us to know how to properly minister to those who, for whatever reason, are not able to speak for themselves. We either perform ministry to them or provide ministry for them. We perform ministry to those of the same broad faith perspective (a Protestant Chaplain performing ministry to other Protestants of different Christian denominations.) We provide ministry for soldiers who are of a different faith by contacting chaplains of like faith (A Catholic Priest [Catholic Chaplain] for our Catholic soldiers, a Rabbi [Jewish Chaplain] for our Jewish soldiers, etc.) In this way, we respect and honor a soldier’s religious preference. So his or her religious preference is important to chaplains.

    Because the Unitarian Universalist Association is a recognized and endorsed denomination within the military, a soldier should be able to have this (or an abbreviation) placed on his I.D. tags. Sometimes we as chaplains have to educate others outside of the chaplaincy in terms of what our soldiers need. I am surprised that the U.S. Army Chaplain School did not recognize this.
    Thank you, military men and women who serve our country or who have served our country in the past; you all are our true heroes. Thank you, chaplains, for the service you provide to our military. And thanks to all who support our military men and women.

    CH (MAJ) James Rozmiarek, Student ILE, FT Belvoir, VA
    (The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.)

  6. Thank you sir, for your wonderful comment, with which I wholeheartedly agree. And thank you for your service.

    And… welcome to the Celestial Lands!

    Yours in Faith,


  7. MAJ R.L. Centner, Army, Ret. on Tuesday August 17, 2010 at 13:09 +0000 said:

    Despite the ideal of providing each servicemember with a chaplain of his or her denomination, it isn’t always possible, such as in remote locations. In some cases, Catholics and Protestants have to stand in for each other. I suspect it happens with other belief systems as well. I know of one occasion when a Jewish rabbi, on an island socked in by the weather, performed a Protestant funeral service. As David is no doubt aware, prudence dictates that a chaplain become conversant in the beliefs and practices of other faiths represented in his or her vicinity. In civilian life, similar roles are occasionally played by prison and hospital chaplains.

  8. Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff on Sunday July 17, 2011 at 8:51 +0000 said:

    Dear Rev. David,

    Could you please contact me directly at resnicoff@aol.com? I would like to get your permission to add the photo of your dog tags to the wikipedia article, “Religious symbolism in the military.”

    Besides giving the history of religious designations on military ID tags (and today, all services SHOULD allow military personnel to include the religion of their choice on the tags, even though not every representative understands this fact), the article includes a photo gallery of dog tags, showing different religious designations. In a way this photo gallery is itself a picture of the religious diversity of our military, and our nation.

    I would be honored to help add a photo of your dog tags to the article, if you would agree. I can go over the details of how to do this if you contact me directly.

    I salute you for your service and your faith.


    Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff
    Washington, D.C.

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