The front page of Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal features a photo of the back of a woman standing and holding a child before row upon row of white gravestones inside Arlington National Cemetery.

The headline reads: Fallen Military Honored.

The emotive photograph was taken yesterday, on Memorial Day. Neither the woman nor the child is identified. We presume she’s a mother, maybe a wife and widow. She appears young. You assume the child she’s holding is her own, and therefore, also related to the individual whom she’s mourning.

The headstones inside Arlington stretch for nearly as far as the eye can see. They’re identical, but for the names and markings. There are over 400,000 veterans and their families buried amid the 639 acres, including some dating back to the Revolutionary War.

It’s an important thing to acknowledge the sacrifice of those lost, as well as the pain and grief endured by their loved ones. Good for the Wall Street Journal for choosing to feature news from Arlington yesterday.

But what grabs your eye when you see the photo? In the lower right corner, on the corner of a headstone you’ll see the Wiccan pentacle symbol on a marker with the name “Charles Thomas.”

Army Specialist Charles Thomas Heinlein, Jr. of Hemlock, Michigan, was in the Army and killed in action on July 31, 2007. He was just 23 years old. He died during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Fort Lewis, Washington, native lost his life after an improvised explosive device blew up near his vehicle. Fellow soldiers Spc. Zachariah J. Gonzalez and Spc. Alfred H. Jairala were also killed that tragic day.

According to Britannica online, the Wiccan sign “has been used throughout history as a symbol, often in magic or the occult. Its meaning has varied wildly over time, and it has functioned as a symbol of protection, of perfection, of the Devil, and of humanity, among others.”

It was back in 2007 when the Department of Veterans Affairs, following two separate lawsuits, agreed to add the Wiccan symbol to its list of approved “Emblems of Belief” for inclusion on soldier headstones. Of course, various crosses and the Star of David have long been allowed. But now there are 98 of them altogether, and in addition to the pentagram, other symbols include a “Druid,” “Humanist Emblem of Spirit,” “Atheist,” and even the “Hammer of Thor.”

Photographers are often silent witnesses to history, but in an increasingly digital world where opinion is shaped and communicated with images, sometimes subtle, a whole lot can be related in a single shot. They can also be activist journalists by what they feature – or ignore.

Is it just a coincidence that of the hundreds of thousands of headstones in Arlington, Associated Press photographer Jacquelyn Martin happened to snap one of only five that feature the controversial pentagram? Perhaps. Or maybe not.

Jacquelyn Martin describes herself on X as a “Believer in the power of thoughtfully done” – and she appears to relish her career. Given her role and platform, she’s leveraging her gifts to tell stories for a global media empire. But we all have our biases, and you can tell a lot about a person’s worldview by what they share online – or what they don’t.

For example, Martin reposted a photo she shot of a “tearful abortion rights activist” in the aftermath of Roe’s reversal. Her sympathy towards a so-called right to abortion is evidenced by what she highlighted – and what she didn’t. Missing from her page are any photographs of the pro-life celebrations that marked the downfall of the near half-century decision that’s resulted in the death of over 60 million innocent children.

One might argue the Wall Street Journal and Martin chose the photo to honor the Army hero, but the angle of the shot omitted Specialist Heinlein’s last name. You have to search online to know anything about him. But there was no such mystery related to the prominence of the pentacle in the photograph.

One thing we can be sure of is the nameless woman and child in the photograph came to honor someone who meant the world to them. We can thank the Lord for that soldier’s life and sacrifice – and lift up in prayer those he left behind, especially these two individuals featured on the cover of today’s Wall Street Journal.


Image credit: Associated Press