Vandals claiming to be who took it upon themselves to defy a recent United States Supreme Court ruling and remove the Mojave Veterans Memorial, erected in 1934, have sent an anonymous letter to the Barstow Desert Dispatch outlining their reasoning for committing the crime.
Anonymous letter explaining cross theft sent to Desert Dispatch
The validity of the claim is unknown, but there are indicators that this may indeed be the scumbags who planned and executed this desecration of a long-standing Veterans Memorial.
The vandals supply 15 points in their justification of this dishonorable act and I will reply to some below. You may see all 15 at the link above.
1. The cross in question was not vandalized. It was simply moved. This was done lovingly and with great care.
Removal is vandalizing, plain and simple. You do not have permission or the right to decide what Battle Weary Veterans from World War One may or may not erect to honor their fallen comrades. If, as you claim, you are a Veteran, shame on you for this egregious desecration of a Veterans Memorial and denial of others rights to remember fallen comrades as they see fit.
We fought for the rights of those we disagree with as well as those we agree with. That you decided to take in your hands to deem what rights others may have violates everything we all fought for.
5. The cross was erected illegally on public land in 1998 by a private individual named Henry Sandoz. Since then the government has actively worked to promote the continued existence of the cross, even as it excluded other monuments from differing religions. This favoritism and exclusion clearly violates the establishment clause of the US Constitution.
The Memorial was first erected in 1934 by a group of World War One Veterans led by Riley Bembry and who wanted to honor soldiers who had perished in the ‘war to end all wars.’ He and his fellow‘doughboys’chose a simple Latin cross that was typical of many Veteran Memorials at that time. Riley asked Henry Sandoz to watch over the Memorial some time before he died in 1984. Sandoz replaced the original wooden Memorial in the 1970’s and after it was vandalized, replaced it with one constructed out of 3 inch metal pipe filled with cement, the one you decided to steal, in 1996. The land in question was not a Federal Preserve when the Memorial was first erected.
A Memorial in the form of a Cross is not necessarily religious in nature or intended only for fallen of the Christian faith.
Would this vandal take it upon himself next to enter Arlington Cemetery and remove all of the crosses on the graves of other fallen Veterans because of inserted “establishment clause?”
War Memorials and the Constitution
No other monuments from differing religions have been excluded. That was a bogus trumped up claim made to justify the view of one man, Frank Buono, to have the Memorial destroyed.
6. Anthony Kennedy desecrated and marginalized the memory and sacrifice of all those non-Christians that died in WWI when he wrote: 'Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles — battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten.' The irony and tragedy of that statement is unique.
No, Justice Kennedy’s word might have angered you, but the symbol of the cross in Memorials has transcended religious meaning long ago. As my friend and former ACLU attorney Rees Lloyd puts it,
“Symbols have meaning in collective life. People die for them. For instance, the Flag. 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.”
Missed, by the miscreant that took it upon himself to initiate this criminal act is that Supreme Court ruling was not about the cross itself, but was over the trade of the land the cross sits on for a larger parcel of land within the Preserve passed by congress earlier. Of that, Justice Kennedy said,
“The land transfer-statute embodies Congress’s legislative judgment that this dispute is best resolved through a framework and policy of accommodation for a symbol that, while challenged under the Establishment Clause has complex meaning beyond the expression of religious views.”
With that, these vandals did not enter public land to remove a symbol, but trespassed upon private land held by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to steal a symbol belonging to and revered by Veterans.
7. Justice Kennedy’s words in particular and others like them from the other Justices caused me to act.
No, your selfish, narrow-minded bigotry is what caused you to take it upon yourself to decide for upwards of 50 million Veterans what they may hold in honor.
9. Discrimination in any form is intolerable, as is hatred.
Except for your hatred of what others honor in memory of their fallen comrades as you decided to discriminate against them?
11. Despite what many people are saying, this act was definitively not anti-Christian. It was instead anti-discrimination. If this act was anti-Christian, the cross would not have been cared for so reverently. An anti-Christian response would have been to simply destroy the cross and leave the pieces in the desert.
No, it might not be “anti-Christian,” but your criminal act is definitely “anti-Veteran” and a dishonor to the very uniform you claim to have once worn and to the memory of those in whose memory the Memorial was erected.
13. If an appropriate and permanent non-sectarian memorial is placed at the site the cross will be immediately returned to Mr. Sandoz.
Your shameful crime will not go unpunished. You have taken it upon yourself to decide what others may do. You have set yourself up as the sole harbinger of what is right in defiance of the United States Supreme Court, Congress and more Veterans you care to know about.
You quote a great man, Abraham Lincoln to justify your crime against Patriotic Americans when you say, “To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”
Your crime is not justifiable in any sense. You are not a Patriot or honorable person. You are the very coward you mention, a coward who sneaks onto private land traded by Veterans to honor a Memorial erected by our Grandfathers under the cover of darkness.
You have not stood up and spoken your view; you stole the rights of others to their views from the middle of the desert.
Your crime is unredeemable. It is cowardly. It is despicable.
You should surrender yourself to the appropriate authorities and return the Memorial to where it has stood for 76 years.
Then, thank God that your penalty will be at the hands of the very judicial system you decided you have the right to defy and dishonor and not at the hands of so many pissed off Veterans.