Great news: The Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial in La Jolla, CA, has been purchased — and hopefully thereby saved …
… “as it is, where it is,” with Cross intact, for generations of Americans to come — by the non-profit Mt. Soledad Memorial Association from the federal Department of Defense.
The Memorial Association announced on Monday, July 21, 2015, that its purchase of the Memorial for $1.4-million was finalized on July 17. This effectively transferred ownership of the memorial site honoring veterans from “public land” under federal ownership to “private land” of the Association, a non-governmental, non-profit, private organization. The Association has maintained the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial since its founding in 1954 in conjunction with wartime veterans of American Legion La Jolla Post 275.
Originally established to honor Korean War Veterans, it was expanded to honor all veterans, especially those who gave their lives in defense of American freedom. The Memorial is on land originally owned by the City of San Diego, which was transferred to the federal DOD in 2006. It now has some 3,500 plaques on tiered walls beneath a 29-foot cross honoring all veterans atop Mt. Soledad. (See, www.soledadmemorial.com.)
The secular extremist American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been suing for some twenty-six (26) years now to destroy the Mt. Soledad Memorial on the basis that the Cross honoring veterans there has been on “public land” and, therefore, violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment. However, it is now on “private land.” That has an enormous impact on the ACLU’s lawsuit, which is again pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
The DOD was authorized to sell the Memorial to the Association by the National Defense Act of 2015, adopted by House and Senate and signed by President of Obama last December.
That legislation was the result of a bill initiated by Congressman Duncan Hunter, former U.S. Marine combat veteran who represents the District and who has led the effort in Congress to save the memorial.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the ACLU in the similar case of Buono vs. Salazar, commonly known as theMojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross Case. There, the ACLU sued in 2002 to destroy a veterans memorial established by VFW members to honor WWI veterans in 1934. ACLU sued because it included a cross on a rock outcrop on federal land in the remote Mojave Desert Preserve. ACLU sued even though there was no complaint in some 70 years, and the Cross was twelve miles off the highway and a person had to drive to it to be offended by it.
After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ordered the the Mojave Cross had to be destroyed, Congress voted to exchange that one-acre site for five acres of private land donated by Henry and Wanda Sandoz, who had cared for the memorial for decades. Since the Cross was now on private land, the Supreme Court nullified the 9th Circuit decision that the Establishment Clause was violated and remanded the case. ACLU finally surrendered on remand in 2012, announcing in court it would cease attempting to destroy the cross.
While there is no way to know to a certainty whether the ACLU will finally cease its quarter-century of litigation to destroy the Mt. Soledad Memorial now that it is on private land, the Association, and those public interest law firms who have been representing veterans against the ACLU’s lawsuits, have hailed implementation of Duncan Hunter’s land-transfer legislation as signaling that the memorial will at last remain “as it is, where it is” without further successful litigation molestation by the ACLU.
Bruce Bailey, President and CEO of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association board of trustees, said:
“I am honored to be leading our Association at this most significant time in our Memorial’s history. It marks for the first time where our membership can manage the Memorial’s affairs from a place of ownership and accountability for the property, which is a new and welcomed step for the Association.”
Reacting to the news of the transfer to the Association of the Mt. Soledad Memorial originally founded by the local American Legion La Jolla Post 275 more than a half-century ago, American Legion National Commander Michael D. Helm said he hoped it would end the litigation attacks of the ACLU:
“Frankly, it shouldn’t have been necessary for the government to sell the land to a private group in order to preserve a memorial that is deeply significant to so many people. The American Legion believes in ‘God and Country.’ Unfortunately, some courts don’t always see it that way. “
Liberty Institute, based in Texas, represents the Memorial Association against the ACLU in the present Mt. Soledad case pending in the 9th Circuit. LI issued a statement that “after a 25-year legal battle, the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is finally saved…[it] ends a legal dispute regarding the constitutionality of the memorial on government land.”
Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s Deputy Chief Counsel, said:
“The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross has stood since 1954 as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. Such a sacred memorial should receive our highest honor and protection. Today’s actions will ensure that the memorial will continue to stand in honor of our veterans for decades to come. This is a great victory for the veterans who originally placed this memorial and the Korean War veterans the memorial honors. We thank our lead counsel, Allyson Ho, and her team at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, who worked tirelessly to defend the memorial, leading to this ultimate victory.”
Charles S. LiMandri, President and Chief Counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), has actively participated in efforts to maintain the Memorial Cross “as it is, where it is” since 2004. The FCDF, along with Attorney Peter Lepiscopo, represents Congressman Duncan Hunter.
LiMandri, who has been credited with doing more than any other single person to save the Mt. Soledad Cross, said of the Memorial’s transfer to the Association:
“We are delighted that the longest running religious liberty case is coming to a successful conclusion after 26 years. Any future legal challenge to the transfer of the Memorial property from the federal government to the Memorial Association is likely to fail in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Salazar v. Buono, 559 U.S. 700 (2010), which approved trade of federal property to private ownership for the purpose of preserving the Mojave Memorial Cross. The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund extends its hearty congratulations to the Memorial Association and its counsel.”
Joseph Infranco is Senior Counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and co-founder, with me, of the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of The American Legion Dept. of California and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
He said of the transfer of Mt. Soledad to the Memorial Association:
“Monuments that honor the very people who have fought and died to protect our freedoms should be preserved in the best possible way. Though perhaps understandable, it’s unfortunate that Congress felt forced to take the safe route of a land transfer to protect this cherished memorial. Memorial crosses on government land honoring those who served and died are not an establishment of religion any more than the memorial crosses that grace Arlington National Cemetery. Nonetheless, all should take some comfort that the Mount Soledad Memorial will be well cared for and free from the illegitimate attacks of those who have sought to uproot it. We trust that this move will allow the memorial and its cross to be enjoyed and revered for generations to come.”
Our Defense of Veterans Memorials Project was created, and first became involved in litigation combatting the ACLU in 2006 when a U.S. District Court ordered the City of San Diego to destroy the Mt. Soledad Cross within 90-days or it would impose a fine of $5,000 per day. We entered the litigation to support Attorney Chuck LiMandri who at the time was carrying the legal battle against ACLU almost alone.
To the shock of most in the legal community, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay order preventing destruction of the Cross after the Ninth Circuit had denied a stay order pending appeal.
The Memorial was saved at the time by passage of the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial Protection Act of 2006, which transferred Mt. Soledad from the City of San Diego to the federal DOD. This effectively nullified the U.S. District Court’s destruction order, since that case was tried under the California Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. That Mt. Soledad Protection Act passed the House overwhelmingly, and the U.S. Senate without objection, including no objection by then Sen. Barack Obama.
Then-President George W. Bush signed the Mt. Soledad Protection Act into law. Attorney Charles LiMandri, because of his singular and remarkable pro bono efforts to save the Cross was invited by President Bush to attend the signing ceremony.
Now, with the Mt. Soledad Memorial again facing destruction by the ACLU’s lawsuit, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a combat Marine, has led the effort in Congress to authorize a transfer of Mt. Soledad by sale into the private hands of the Memorial Association, as Congress did in the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross case (Buono vs.Salazar).
This may or may not deter the ACLU in its secular-cleansing, cross-destroying fanaticism, even to the point of attacking veterans memorials. If it does not, those who have fought to preserve Mt. Soledad will continue to fight, as long as it takes, to prevent the desecration of it or any veterans memorials by intolerant extremists epitomized by the ACLU, which, in my opinion, has become the Taliban of American liberal secularism.
As co-founder with Joe Infranco of the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project, I thank Joe Infranco and all at ADF; Hiram Sasser, Kelly Schackleford, and all at Liberty Institute; Chuck LiMandri and all at Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund; Attorney Pete Lepiscopo; Congressman Duncan Hunter; and all of who have fought so long and so hard to save Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial “as it is, where it is,” and as it was intended to be by the American veterans who founded it to honor their comrade veterans.
This thanks includes American Legionnaires in California who have continued to fight against the ACLU. They have, among other things, established plaques at Mt. Soledad honoring Maj. General Patrick H. Brady (USA, ret., Medal of Honor, Vietnam); Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton (USN, ret.; Navy Cross, POW for seven years/seven months in Vietnam); Legendary Legionnaires Leo Burke (USMC, WWII), and Robert J. “Uncle Bobby” Castillo (USN, WWII); and, on February 3, 2014, the Immortal Four Chaplains. (See, attached photo of California Legionnaires at Four Chaplains ceremonies beneath the Cross at Mt. Soledad, joined by former Navy Seal Larry Wilske (ret.), now Executive Secretary of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association.)
I thank them all for fighting as Patton taught—“Audacity, Audacity, Always Audacity;” and staying the course as Churchill taught:
“Never give up. Never, never, never give up.”
As veterans, and as patriots, we must not, we will not, allow desecration of memorials honoring veterans, no matter how offensive those memorials may be to enemies of America, foreign or domestic.
(Rees Lloyd, a longtime California civil rights attorney and veterans activist, is a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce)
The case goes back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. LiMandri: Cross stays put till then.
The Supreme Court on Monday, June 30, 2014, issued an order denying a petition for expedited review of the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Cross Case (Mt. Soledad Memorial Assn. v. Steve Trunk, et al, USSC NO. 13-061.)
The petition filed by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association requested the Court to grant review, by-passing the appeal pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. The Court declined without an opinion. Justice Alito published a separate statement explaining that denial of the petition does not represent a final decision on whether the Supreme Court will ultimately grant review.
Rather, Justice Alito noted that because the Ninth Circuit has not ruled on the appeal from the U.S. District Court decision ordering the Cross destroyed, there is “no final judgment” on which the Supreme Court to Rule. Further, he pointed out that because the U.S. District Court ordered a stay pending appeal, the Cross will not be destroyed as the appeal process continues in the Ninth Circuit.
Justice Alito, in issuing his statement clarifying that the denial of expedited review is not a final decision on whether to grant Supreme Court review, noted again that the “ ‘Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence is undoubtedly in need of clarity.” Few constitutional law practitioners would disagree.
Justice Alito’s statement is published at 53 U.S. ____(2014), and is below in its entirety for convenience.
San Diego Attorney Charles S. LiMandri, founder and chief legal counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), who is credited with doing more to save the Mt. Soledad Cross than any other single person, said in response to the Supreme Court’s denial of expedited review:
“It is an unfortunate delay. It means going through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal processes. This is what the Supreme Court wants, and what the government wanted. So, instead of a delay of perhaps one year, we may be waiting two or three years. “But it is not ‘bad news.” They are not saying they won’t take the case ultimately; just not now,” LiMandri said. “The good news is that the stay is in effect pending appeal. So the Cross isn’t going anywhere, and we believe we will ultimately prevail based on statements made by the Justices and rulings in other cases,” LiMandri concluded.
There is also a possibility of legislative action to preserve the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial “where it is, as it is,” with the Cross intact.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a combat veteran and former Marine, has a bill pending to preserve all veterans memorials.
Further, the legislative solution reached which saved the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial may be a precedent for saving the Mt. Soledad National Memorial.
That is, the ACLU sued for ten years to destroy the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross, established in the remote desert in 1934 by WWI Veterans of Foreign Wars members to honor their fallen WWI comrades. When the ACLU obtained an order from the U.S. District Court in Riverside, CA, to destroy the Cross in 2002, then-Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) sponsored legislation in which Congress authorized a land swap in which the one-acre Mojave memorial site was exchanged for five acres of land donated by private citizens, Henry and Wanda Sanchez.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that that land exchange did not violate the Constitution. Although the ACLU continued to sue for two more years, claiming that the Act of Congress was itself unconstitutional, the ACLU ultimately surrendered in 2012.
The Mt. Soledad Cross was established in 1954 to honor Korean War Veterans. Later, it became a memorial honoring all veterans. There are now more than 3,000 plaques, many bearing crosses or Stars of David, on the walls of the memorial beneath the 29-foot Cross honoring all veterans.
The extremists of the ACLU, which has become the Taliban of American liberal secularism, have been suing to destroy the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross for 25 years now.
In 2006, a U.S. District Judge in San Diego ordered the City of San Diego to tear down the Cross in 90 days or he would impose a fine of $5,000 per day. Congress responded by passing the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial Act, which transferred the memorial from the City of San Diego to the federal Department of Defense. Because the ACLU had sued to destroy the Cross in federal Court but under the California Constitution, that transfer nullified the cross destruction order.
ACLU sued to destroy the Cross again, this time under the U.S. Constitution. A different U.S. District Judge in San Diego ruled that the Mt. Soledad Cross was constitutional as a reasonable person would understand that the Cross was part of a war memorial intended to honor veterans, not to advance religion or any particular religion. The Ninth Circuit overruled the District Court and remanded the case for a remedy to be ordered. The District Court stated it continued to believe the Mt. Soledad Cross is constitutional, but had no choice but to order it destroyed due to the Ninth Circuit ruling. The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and petitioned the Supreme Court to expedite resolution by granting immediate review. That was declined. Many believe the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Cross Case is the most important pending Establishment of Religion Clause case. Final decision by the Supreme Court will set a precedent affecting this and future generations of Americans.
What is at stake is whether 300-million Americans will continue to be able to honor their war dead and other veterans as they choose, using symbols of our American history and heritage, including the cross and other symbols with a religious aspect; or whether atheists, agnostics, and intolerant secular extremists epitomized by the ACLU will have a veto power over those decisions because they are “offended” by the sight of the cross. For now, the Mt. Soledad Cross will remain protected due to the stay order until the appeals process is complete. A legislative solution could be enacted in the meantime.
However, experience has shown that in order for effective action to be taken by Congress, or the White House, veterans and other American patriots have to rise up and fight for it, or little or nothing will be done.
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY FOREVER; SURRENDER TO THE ACLU—NEVER. (Rees Lloyd, a longtime California civil rights lawyer and veterans activist, is a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.) ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Cite as: 573 U. S. ____ (2014) Statement of ALITO, J.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES MOUNT SOLEDAD MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION v. STEVE TRUNK, ET AL. ON PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI BEFORE JUDGMENT TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT No. 13–1061. Decided June 30, 2014 The petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment isdenied. Statement of JUSTICE ALITO respecting the denial of the petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment. This case came before us two years ago, see 567 U. S.___ (2012), and at that time I issued a statement respecting the denial of certiorari. I noted that although the“Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence is undoubtedly in need of clarity,” certiorari was not yet warranted inthis case “[b]ecause no final judgment has been rendered and it remains unclear precisely what action the FederalGovernment will be required to take.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 2, 3). Since that time, the District Court has issued an order requiring the memorial to be removed, but it has stayed that order pending appeal. The Court of Appeals has not yet reviewed that order on appeal. Seeking to bypass that step, petitioner seeks certiorari before judgment. In my view, it has not met the very demanding standard werequire in order to grant certiorari at that stage. In lightof the stay, any review by this Court can await the decision of the Court of Appeals. I therefore agree with the Court’s decision to deny the petition.
America has lost one of its greatest native sons, Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton, who epitomized all that is good and great in the American patriotic character as a warrior, statesman and humanitarian.
He was an extraordinary American patriot who lived his life in service to God and Country.
Adm. Denton, one of America’s greatest military heroes, died on March 28, 2014. But his example of undaunted courage in combat and in almost eight torture-filled years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, will live through the ages as a testament to what can be accomplished through love of family, love of country, and unconquerable faith in God.
It was his faith in God that Adm. Denton attested enabled him to survive the unspeakable torture he and other American POW’s endured for resisting demands of their communist captors to denounce and repudiate their country.
That the communists were in fact torturing American POW’s in violation of the Geneva Accords was first definitively exposed and confirmed by POW Jeremiah Denton in a now famous act that almost cost him his life. In May, 1966, when the communists attempted to use him for propaganda purposes through a Japanese television documentary intended to show communist benevolence to the POW’s, Denton blinked repeatedly as if the bright light bothered his eyes. In fact, he was blinking “T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse Code. After the broadcast, when the communists realized that Denton had duped them, he was tortured so horrendously that he was near death—and actually wished to die to end it.
He powerfully exposed war crime torture by the communists in the now classic book he authored, entitled: When Hell Was In Session. It is a book which ought to be read in every American schoolroom, and every American home. (A new edition, with an epilogue containing Adm. Denton’s thoughts on the current American condition, has been published by WND Books.)
It was Adm. Denton’s service in defense of American freedom in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, including during his long captivity as a POW from July 18, 1965, to Feb. 13, 1975, some four (4) years of which was in solitary confinement due to his leadership of resisting POW’s, which led him to be universally respected by his fellow POW’s, and to be hailed by former President Ronald Reagan as “a great hero.”
What Adm. Denton did as a warrior, and how he was respected as a leader by POW’s who resisted their communist torturers, is confirmed and illuminated by author Alvin Townley in his just published epic account of POW’s courage and sacrifice: “DEFIANT: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, The Women Who Fought For Them, And The One Who Never Returned.
When finally released on Feb. 13, 1975, Denton was chosen to speak for his fellow POW’s when they stepped off the plane at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The heartfelt simplicity of Denton’s words are a reflection of his modesty, his essential goodness, his soul: “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our county under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our commander in chief and to our nation for this day,” Denton said, then added with emotion: “God bless America.”
Under difficult circumstances? Never has there been a greater understatement. To begin to appreciate how excruciatingly “difficult” the circumstances of our POW’s were under the communists, read Denton’s “When Hell Was In Session,” first published in 1975; or Alvin Townley’s “DEFIANT,” published in 2014, confirming Denton’s account and detailing just how “difficult,” how horrendous, were those “difficult circumstances,” for American POW’s, and for their families back home.
Those families, including Denton’s beloved wife Jane, (who predeceased him several years ago) and their seven children, did not know for years even if their loved ones were alive or dead. The so-called “Best And Brightest” Ivy League liberals of Lyndon Johnson’s Democrat regime urged them not to protest against treatment of the POW’s so as not to provoke the communists to even more atrocities. Meanwhile, the media ignored the issue of the treatment of the POW’s and printed and broadcast endless reports of Jane Fonda, John Kerry, and other progressive liberals praising the communists and denouncing the U.S. and American warriors as “war criminals.” (Alvin Townley in “DEFIANT” tells the story of the rebellion of the wives and families against the “gag order” and their creation of a successful campaign to awaken the world to the torture of American Pow’s.)
Jeremiah Denton contends that it was love of family, country, and most importantly, his faith in God that saved his life, and sanity, as a POW. While he was an heroic American warrior, he was, after his release and return to freedom, also a statesman of vision. He was the first Republican to be elected to the U.S. Senate from the State of Alabama. He was a humanitarian to the end of his days through his Admiral Denton Legacy Initiatives (formerly, the Admiral Jeremiah Denton Foundation) whose good works will continue even with his passing. (See, www.AdmiralDenton.org,).
I consider it one of the blessings of my life to have had the honor to have been able to work with Adm. Denton, in a small way, considering the multitude of good works in which he was involved. But it had a very large impact on me. Jeremiah Denton was not only a great man, but a good one, and history has shown that it is more rare than common that great men are also good men.
In 2006, I had the honor of working with Adm. Denton and another great and good man, Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady, USA (ret.), Medal of Honor (Vietnam). I was the “go-between” in the drafting and crafting of what went to Congress as the Joint Statement Of Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton (USN, ret.) and Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady (USA, ret), In Support Of Passage Of The Veterans Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals And Other Public Expressions Of Religion Act (“PERA”).
PERA was sponsored by former-Congressman John Hostettler of Indiana (8th Dis.), and The American Legion as citizen sponsor. PERA would rescind the authority of judges to award taxpayer-paid attorney fees to the ACLU, or anyone else, in Establishment of Religion Clause litigation attacks on public expression of religion or symbols with a religious aspect, most often the Cross. That would allow defendant public bodies not to surrender to the ACLU’s secular-cleansing demands to destroy Crosses or ban the Ten Commandments or other public expressions of religion for fear of precious taxpayer funds being diverted to pay ACLU fees, often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars by which ACLU profits at tax-payer expense
The American Legion hand-delivered the Joint Statement of Adm. Denton and Gen. Brady to every member of the House and Senate the day before the House vote. To the shock of many, PERA passed the House overwhelmingly. Many credited Adm. Denton and Gen. Brady for persuading Representatives to vote for the PERA Bill. Unfortunately, however, Arlen Specter, then-Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman (later Democrat candidate for the Senate), blocked PERA from being voted on before the November 2006 elections. The Democrats took control of Congress and have refused since then to bring PERA up for a hearing or vote.
After that work in 2006, I had the opportunity to work with Adm. Denton, who was also chair of the advisory board of The Thomas More Law Center [www.thomasmore.org]. These efforts included the fight against the ACLU to save the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross (ACLU surrendered in 2012 after ten years of litigation) and to save the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Cross (now in the 24th year of litigation by the secular extremists of the ACLU).
What I am most thankful for is having been able to initiate and participate in the establishment by The American Legion Department of California, and Thomas More Law Center, of a plaque in honor of Adm. Denton at the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial on National POW/MIA Day 2008.
This granite plaque erected by his comrade wartime veterans of The American Legion to honor Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., shall stand for generations, beneath the Cross honoring veterans at Mt. Soledad, allowing future Americans to learn of his exemplary life lived in service to God and Country, a life to be emulated if we are to remainfree, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
“The Four Chaplains proved their faith with ultimate sacrifice – not in a flash of combatant action – but with peaceful discernment, humble devotion and extraordinary valor. They lived this life knowing God’s real presence and eternal promise. Blessed with men of this caliber, our nation must do the same.”
I first read Adm. Denton’s “When Hell Was In Session” back in 1997. The horrors of the torture he endured, how he fought back despite those horrible tortures, often wishing for death to end the pain, and how, somehow, he remained human through it all, was and is awe inspiring. But, what struck me most of all was the love this man expressed for our country, and for us, in the gentle words of the dedication of his book. From that day to this, those words of Jeremiah A. Denton have been taped to my desk, as they say so much about who and what Jeremiah Denton was, heroic yet humble, great yet good, a warrior, statesman, and humanitarian, who, after enduring as a POW the worst inhumanity of which humans are capable, would dedicate his book in these words:
“To those who strive make this one nation under God, who are willing to protect her,who thank God for such great beauty as she has developed and who patiently tolerate her imperfections.”
Those words of Jeremiah A. Denton, from his heart, touched mine. He was, indeed, a great man who is also good man. I thank God for him, and for the opportunity to have known him.
May the God Jeremiah A. Denton, warrior, statesman, and humanitarian, so faithfully served in war and in peace, bless and keep him; and may the nation he so faithfully served, and whose freedom he preserved, never forget him.
(Rees Lloyd is a longtime California civil rights attorney, a veterans activist, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.)
American Legionnaires, and other veterans and patriots, will commemorate the service and selfless sacrifice of the Four Chaplains by establishing a plaque in their honor at Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial on “Four ChaplainsDay,” February 3, 2014, at 1 p.m.
February 3 is national Four Chaplains Day by Act of Congress in 1988. However, it is generally ignored by news media, not taught in schools, and not observed by government entities. Consequently, most Americans do not know who the Four Chaplains are, why they are honored, or even that there is a national Four Chaplains Day.
Therefore, in part to rectify that, wartime veterans of the California American Legion, other veterans and patriots, have unified to create a permanent and enduring reminder of the lives and heroism of the Four Chaplains by dedicating a granite plaque in their honor at Mt. Soledad.
The ceremonies will be held on the 70th anniversary of Feb. 3, 1943, when the troop ship Dorchester was torpedoed in WWII on its way to Greenland. As the doomed Dorchester began swiftly sinking in the frigid sea with 900 troops aboard, the Four Chaplains put their life jackets on troops without them, and went to their certain deaths, arms linked, praying together, “so that others may live.”
The awe-inspiring selfless heroism of the Four Chaplains — Rev. George Fox (Methodist), Rabbi Alexander Goode, Father John Washington (Roman Catholic), and Rev. Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed)-–led Congress to award each a Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross in 1944, and an unprecedented Congressional Medal of Valor in 1961. The American Legion continues to advocate that the Four Chaplains should be awarded the Medal of Honor in an exception to the rule that it can only be awarded to combatants.
The Four Chaplains will now be honored in an enduring way by a plaque at Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial beneath the cross honoring veterans there. (A replica of the plaque is attached as a file.)
SPEAKERS HONORING THE FOUR CHAPLAINS AT CEREMONIES:
San Diego Attorney Charles S. LiMandri will be the keynote speaker. He, as Western Region Director of the Thomas More Law Center and currently as Director of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), is credited with doing more to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial “as it is, where it is,” than any other single person.
Congressman Duncan Hunter will speak in honor of the Four Chaplains unless required for a vote in the U.S. House, in which case a representative will speak for him.
Capt. Joseph R. John (USN, ret.), combat veteran and founder of Combat Veterans For Congress (CVFC)
Larry Wilske, Special Operations Master Chief [SEAL] (USN, ret.).
Myke (“NY Myke”) Shelby, a Vietnam veteran (Air Force), owner of San Diego Harley, and longtime activist in the San Diego citizens movement to preserve Mt. Soledad “as it is, where it is.”
Dr. John Steel, former Navy fighter pilot, renown physician and surgeon in San Diego, and one of the first supporters of the Mt. Soledad Memorial.
Victoria Taft, patriotic broadcast journalist and radio talk show host, who for years annually broadcast a Four Chaplains Day tribute on Feb. 3.
Harry M. Woods, Commander, and Anthony Stewart, Vice Commander, will speak for host American Legion District 22 (which covers all Posts in San Diego County).
Ray Trosper will represent Riverside Post 79 which initiated the Four Chaplains tribute at Mt. Soledad. He is Post 79 Sgt.-At-Arms; Chaplain of Post 79’s American Legion Riders (ALR); a Patriot Guard Rider (PGR).
STATEMENTS RECEIVED HONORING THE FOUR CHAPLAINS TO BE INCLUDED A measure of how the Four Chaplains are honored and revered by veterans of today is expressed in statements issued by two of America’s greatest living military heroes. Their statements will to be delivered on their behalf at the Four Chaplains ceremonies:
Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady (USA, ret.) Medal of Honor (Vietnam), considered America’s most decorated living veteran, an American Legionnaire who has described the generally unknown or ignored humanitarian acts of American troops while in war in Vietnam in his book, “Dead Men Flying: America’s Battlefield Angels” (WND Books), sent this tribute to the Four Chaplains:
“As one who has been honored by many great men up to and including the president of the United States, no honor has been more satisfying than my Humanitarian Award from the chapel of the Four Chaplains. Their legacy of courage and sacrifice is vital for our nation’s survival. Our youth need to know that courage is the key to success in life and God will give us all we ask for. You can’t use it up and their faith is the foundation of their courage. Sacrifice is love in action, the source of happiness and our eternal inheritance from the Four Chaplains.”
Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton (USN, ret.), seven years/seven months a prisoner of war in Vietnam, later U.S. Senator (Alabama), also an American Legionnaire and author of the classic book on the tortures inflicted on American P.O.W.’s by their communist captors, “When Hell Was In Session” (WND Books), sent this tribute statement on the Four Chaplains:
“The Four Chaplains proved their faith with ultimate sacrifice – not in a flash of combatant action – but with peaceful discernment, humble devotion and extraordinary valor. They lived this life knowing God’s real presence and eternal promise. Blessed with men of this caliber, our nation must do the same.”
Others whose tribute statements will be included in the ceremonies include:
–Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich (5th District), a veteran (Army) and American Legionnaire, long a supporter of Mt. Soledad “as it is, where it is,” and leader of the effort to restore the cross on the Mission Church on the L.A. County Seal, which is now depicted without its cross as the result of lawsuit threats by the ACLU.
–Col. Antonio Monaco (USA, ret.), founder and CEO of Patriot Outreach (www.PatriotOutreach.org.).
–Chaplain (Ret., LTC) Phillip L. Pringle
–Dan Smith (USMC, ret.), Chairman of the Board of Military Honor Details at Riverside National Cemetery.
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY FOREVER; SURRENDER TO TYRANNY–NEVER!
(Rees Lloyd is a longtime civil rights lawyer, veterans activist, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.)