Did we have any business in the First World War? Would we have been wiser not to send troops to Vietnam in a war we never intended to win? What great national purpose was served in the Spanish-American war? Those are the flaws and failures of our leaders, not the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who selflessly served our nation.
So the Supreme Court, in a decision that surprised many, two weeks ago found that those who died in military action were entitled to have a large cross at the memorial in which these Americans were buried. The decision reversed the decision of lower federal courts, and until the Supreme Court’s rather surprising decision, the cross had been covered with a tarp to avoid violating the lower federal court’s orders to remove the cross.
The ACLU, which brought the lawsuit to remove all reference to God in our military cemeteries, lost. This common use the cross at memorials for our dead servicemen is not intended — at all — to offend the many Jewish servicemen who also died in action. Any inspection of military cemeteries will show, amid the ocean of crosses, the Star of David memorializing those Jews who died in the defense of their country.
After the Supreme Court’s decision allowed a seven-foot metal cross to remain over a war memorial in the Mohave Desert, a cross which had been there since 1935, criminal vandals did what anti-religious judicial activism had not been able to do: The cross was stolen in the middle of the night and, adding insult to injury, it had been stolen on a Sunday night, the Sabbath to the Christian servicemen buried there.
The reaction of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars was quick and clear. Clarence Hill, National Group Commander of the American Legion, said: "The American Legion expects whoever is responsible for this vile act to be brought to justice. While the memorial has been attacked, the fight will continue to ensure that veterans memorials will remain sacrosanct." VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. said: "To think anyone can rationalize the desecration of a war memorial is sickening, and for them to believe they won't be apprehended is very naïve."
Other patriotic organizations joined their voices. Kelly Shackleford, President of the Liberty Institute, said: "This is an outrage, akin to desecrating people's graves. It's a disgraceful attack on the selfless sacrifice of our veterans. We will not rest until this memorial is re-installed." It seems certain that the cross will be rapidly rebuilt, and possibly without any cost to the taxpayers, built, instead, by the millions of Americans who honor our fallen soldiers.
What will happen to the thieves and the desecrators of this war memorial? Perhaps they could be given the option of a long prison sentence or joining one of our military services and seeing how they like boot camp. Or perhaps they should be given the option of a long prison sentence or surrendering citizenship in that country whose fallen defenders they so maliciously attacked.
Photo: President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan walk through the graves at Normandy American Cemetary in France, June 6, 1984: AP Images