LIVINGSTON: Stolen cross, stolen honor

Mojave Desert site was only memorial to World War I veterans

By James E. Livingston, Paul E. Vallely and John M. Poindexter

The Washington Times

Updated: 7:58 a.m. on Friday, November 19, 2010


Frank Woodruff Buckles was born in Missouri 109 years ago. He is a national hero and the last living American veteran of World War I. But as we observed this Veterans Day – a day conceived as a celebration of the end of that bloody war – there was no national monument to honor Mr. Buckles and 5 million other Americans who served our nation in uniform then. The sole National Monument to World War I has been destroyed by vandals, and the Obama administration refuses to allow its replacement, even by private citizens, even at private expense.

In 1934, John Bembrey, along with several fellow veterans, erected a simple cross on a granite outcrop in the Mojave Desert. Their intention was to commemorate the sacrifice made by their comrades in the Great War, and for the next 65 years, this modest memorial was quietly maintained by volunteers. In 2000, the Mojave Desert Cross was designated by the U.S. Congress as the only official National Monument to World War I.

Then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other self-appointed guardians of the Constitution argued that the Mojave Desert Memorial Cross was an affront to the principle of separation of church and state. A decade-long battle ensued until April of this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court – the actual arbiter of the Constitution – issued a ruling that the cross could remain.

The majority decision of the high court was delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and it read, “The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished, need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs. The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society.”

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower courts for further review. That means the legal battle will continue, and the ACLU already has promised to continue its fight to remove the cross from the memorial.

Not content to leave it to the courts and inflamed by the April decision, criminals torched through supports and stole the cross on May 10. Even though destruction of that cross is a federal crime under the Veterans Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003, no action was taken by the FBI or by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.‘s Department of Justice. So, Americans did what Americans do best and solved the problem on their own. Concerned citizens replaced the cross with an exact replica and restored the memorial.

On May 20, 10 days after the memorial’s desecration and the theft of the cross, park rangers found the replacement cross bolted to the base of the original. The Park Service removed it because it was not the original cross but merely a replica. Mojave National Park spokeswoman Linda Slater explained, “The Park Service has regulations about people putting up memorials. You can’t just go to a park and put up a memorial to a family member.” She explained neither the non sequitur about a “family member,” nor the logic of the Park Service actions.

Towering above the Park Service and picayune ACLU wrangling is World War I itself. Though hundreds of monuments in Washington and across the nation celebrate obscure people and events, there is not a single national monument to the sacrifices made by 4,734,991 uniformed Americans who were at war from April 6, 1917, to the day the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918. In those 19 months of slaughter, empires fell, kings abdicated and 10 million soldiers died on the battlefield, including 116,516 Americans.

The Mojave Desert Cross commemorates American bravery. In less than two years, 119 men were awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military honor. The accompanying citations attempted to capture the recipients’ bravery with phrases such as “… showed the highest possible contempt of personal danger, devotion to duty, courage, and valor.” During months of trench warfare, poison gas and terrible new weapons including tanks, airplanes and machine guns, America was graced with heroes such as flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, Tennessee mountaineer Alvin C. York (hero of the film “Sergeant York”) and young Army volunteers such as Frank Woodruff Buckles.

The Mojave Desert Cross is also a tribute to the multicultural nature of America. Among the soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor were men born in Austria, China, England, Finland, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Norway and Serbia. During World War I, the U.S. military inducted 500,000 immigrants of 46 nationalities, and every one of them was an American warrior. Serving alongside them were 10,000 American Indians and 350,000 black Americans.

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New User 16fab says:

13 hours, 8 minutes ago

Mark as offensive

Simply put, during the years when one’s lifelong deep feelings are set, as it were in stone, Barack Obama lived, went to school, and maybe even church in a country that has always shown an attitude of superiority over anything Western. Why then does it surprise anyone when his actions show that he does not think like an American, despite the fact that an accident of nature MAY have caused him to begin his tenth month of life on American soil?

fastboat says:

18 hours, 8 minutes ago

Mark as offensive

The Constitution says “freedom of religion” not “freedom from religion”. I can’t believe some of the judges of late are making the decisions that they are. As for Obama, he is not a Christian no matter what he says in public about himself. His mind and heart are Muslim.

cammo says:

23 hours, 33 minutes ago

Mark as offensive

The National Parks are also suffering severe set backs because of the economy, and stupid enforcements of ridiculousUN environmental codes. In the era of global warming for some unexplained reason it makes more sense to burn down a forest rather than harvest it? This is on President Obama who is supposed to act like a Commander in Chief and represent Veterans past, present and future. He has been not simply incompetent in these instances, but he has been an obstructionist to anything that might “glorify” the military, his command!
President Obama was handed a corrupt and abused VA system, allowed to rut in it’s own avarices for way too long (We still measure the success of the reforms not by how good it should be but how much has been corrected, that’s not leadership.) and restored some of my benefits although because of our economic national emergency they are on the block again, but the bottom line here is President Obama has been unsympathetic to any remebrance of wars. I was sent an undoctored photo of the President asnd his wife saluting the flag with their left hands, was that some sort of 60’s Black Power thing? I believe his George Soros, Hillary Clinton, etc. new world order can not accept commerations of nations fighting nations it undermines what they think is the better future of a world without nations. Soon we won’t have a National Park they will be under the domain of the UN. In that rendition of all the “colonial” wars of the past centuries, we are the bad guys, we don’t deserve a monument.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas