Long ago, Veterans of World War One suffering from the effects of mustard gas they had inhaled and to recover from physical and psychological injuries sustained, migrated to California’s Mojave Desert and its dry climate. They formed a local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and in 1934 Death Valley Post 2884 erected a simple wooden cross on what is known as “sunrise rock” as it reminded them of a “doughboy” out in the middle of nowhere in what was to become the Mojave National Preserve.
The simple Memorial bore a small plaque reading, “Erected in Memory of the Dead of All Wars.”
Over the years members died off as they aged until the last survivor of VFW Post that erected the Memorial, John Riley Bembry also passed away in 1984. In 1983, Bembry asked fellow Desert Dweller, Henry Sandoz to repair and maintain the simple Memorial as it had been destroyed due to being vandalized.
In 1986 it was vandalized again with some gravesites in the area being disturbed. Sandoz, adhering to his promise to Bembry rebuilt the Memorial one more time out of pipe this time filled with concrete to discourage further vandalized.
The plaque commemorating the Memorial was never replaced.
Bembry, with no known religious affiliation, obviously saw the cross as much more than just a religious symbol. As explained to me by a learned friend,
“The Cross manifestly has a religious aspect. But, equally manifestly, it conveys a secular meaning -- the meaning of selfless service and sacrifice for others, and is so understood. Universally. Beyond language barriers. In fact, there is not other symbol so universally recognized as representing selfless service and sacrifice for others, including the ultimate sacrifice of one's life. That is how it is understood at veterans memorials, and why it is the symbol so often chosen to honor the war dead.”
Today, after being vandalized numerous times, the simple Memorial in the middle of nowhere faces total destruction if the ACLU and Frank Buono, a retired Ranger who once worked at the Mojave Preserve prevails before the US Supreme Court, after a decade long battle seeking the destruction of a 75 year-old Memorial to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.
Rising out of an incident in 1999 when a Buddhist Monk was denied permission to erect a Stupa, a Buddhist holy monument filled with Buddhist relics and other holy objects.
From the link we read of Stupa’s,
“A stupa is the most sacred monument found in all of the ancient Buddhist countries. Unique amongst all forms of sacred architecture, it is the quintessential symbol of enlightenment. Stupas are filled with sacred images, mantras and the relics of holy beings. The foundation, symmetry, orientation and contents of the stupa create incredible power to those who even look upon it. It has the potential to transcend the limitations of language to activate enlightened knowledge.”
A far cry from a simple Memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives defending our country.
Perhaps disagreeing with the denial of the Stupa for the Buddhist, Buono, upon retirement from the Park Service, immediately went to the ACLU who contacted the National Park Service “formally requesting removal” of the Memorial.
What strikes me is that neither Buono or the ACLU on his behalf, have fought for the Buddhist to be granted permission to build his Stupa, but only the destruction of a long-standing War Memorial is sought. This suit being brought under the so-called Establishment Clause to “protect the religious rights of all.”
Being misled in my opinion, some members of the Jewish War Veterans, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council and the Muslim American Veterans Association on the basis of the Memorial being in the shape of a Cross, believing it denies recognition of their service.
I am left wondering if they are equally offended at the sight of our Second Highest Award for Valor, the Distinguished Service Cross or if any of their members have refused receipt of the award due to it being a Cross also?
Over four million other Veterans, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, VFW of California, and American Ex-Prisoners of War, stand together in support of preserving our War Memorials as constructed.
A congressional land swap, returning the 1 acre of land the Memorial is located on in exchange for 5 acres elsewhere in the Preserve did not satisfy Buno or the ACLU and they filed suit to have that overturned. That alone shows me the only satisfactory solution to the ACLU and Buono is total destruction of the Memorial.
Should they succeed, there is an aspect of life all too often ignored, the Law of Unintended Consequence, which states that any purposeful action will produce some unanticipated or unintended consequences.
The ACLU has stated they have no desire to have crosses and such removed from gravesites in cemeteries such as Arlington National Cemetery since they allow numerous religious symbols on graves within the cemetery.
Although I have little confidence in such guarantees from the ACLU I’ll take them at their word for now, in regards to crosses on headstones. But, only for now as I do not trust the ACLU since they have shown a penchant for attacking anything remotely resembling a Christian symbol on public property.
My gut tells me that in time, headstones with Christian Crosses won’t be safe either.
Nor will numerous public memorials to War Veterans across America as several contain either crosses or some other symbol that can be associated with Christianity, whether any religious significance was intended or not.
One such symbol stands in front of the grave of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy, struck down by an assassin’s bullet November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. At the request of his wife, Jacqueline, an “eternal flame” was placed in front of his gravesite.
Eternal flames have an old history dating back to early Christianity and other religions as well.
Kennedy, a Democrat, is revered by many of those on the left who support destruction of such War Memorials as is currently under fire in the Mojave National Preserve.
I doubt any of them see any religious significance in such an eternal flame, just as visiting Veterans and those who honor fallen Veterans do not visit the Mojave War Memorial for religious significance.
Yet, with the ACLU’s continuing push for removing any symbol someone associates with Christianity and claims offense at, the law of unintended consequences could very well come back on the left as someone claims offense at the historical religious significance of the eternal flame on the President Kennedy’s grave and wins a Court Case to extinguish it.
Actions have consequences and all too often they aren’t what was expected.