Atheists, The Marines, and When a Cross Transcends All Religious Meaning
When it comes to certain topics surrounding patriotism and the military, I have a tendency of toning down my own rhetoric. In this, I will restrict myself to making one point about atheism, and leave the rest to someone far more qualified to speak on this issue.
Atheists have repeatedly been taking the spotlight lately for various levels of stupid behavior. For whatever reason, they are finding it necessary to stick their noses in where they don’t belong. Whether it’s lawsuits about religious items on public land, or un-blessing a road, they’re obviously trying to make it clear that they will not tolerate anyone showing any signs that they follow any religion publicly. But, this time, they have crossed the line from attacking religion, to the point of attacking the secular sacred. Yes, there is such a thing, and we as a nation, observe it at least once yearly, on Memorial Day. As the daughter, granddaughter, cousin, and niece of veterans and service members from World War II to this very moment, I know very well that some things are sacred to soldiers, and have nothing to do with religion, even if it appears so to outsiders. The current atheist crusade of trying to have the crosses removed from Camp Pendleton is no different than petitioning the Federal Government to remove the Tomb of the Unknowns from Arlington National Cemetery.
But don’t take my word for it when it comes to explaining the meaning of this memorial at Camp Pendleton. Today, I was privileged enough to receive a response from a Marine that had been stationed there. He graciously explained the meaning of the memorial, and his thoughts on the issue:
I was stationed at Camp Pendleton from 2000 to 2005. I was assigned to 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, Weapons Company, CAAT Platoon which is located at Camp Horno where these crosses are located. Camp Horno is a remote camp that is compromised entirely of Infantry and Infantry only. There aren’t even any female Marines located anywhere close. It houses four to five Infantry Battalions and the 1st Marine Regiments Headquarters, so basically a lot of testosterone and a lot angry Jarheads with a lot of bad memories surrounded by a mountain side and an active firing range across the road.
Back in 2003, seven Marines from 2nd Battalion 1st Marines climbed up to the top of Horno ridge and erected a cross to honor our brothers who had been killed in action. It became a place for reflection and a place to clear our heads when the memories got too bad. I remember nights when I couldn’t sleep, which was most of the time, I would climb up that damn hill and visit the cross. I would always bring a bottle of Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker Black, and made sure I left half behind for my brothers who were no longer there.
My battalion returned to Iraq in 2004, and that deployment took a heavy toll on all of us. We lost 33 men during operations in and around Fallujah. We came home extremely proud, but every one of us knew we would never be the same again. The cross had a new meaning to us. During morning PT runs we carried large rocks up the hills with us to place at the base of the cross, and pay homage to our brothers. The bigger the better. If it caused pain even better. We all had tortured souls after that deployment, and we almost felt as if the more pain we caused ourselves, somehow it would change the fact that they weren’t there anymore. It was our way of honoring them. Some men even brought their Purple Heart Medals, which were given to them for being wounded in combat, and left them there as a tribute. I remember once also seeing a Silver Star, one of the highest awards you can receive for valor, left on top of a large stone. There were all kinds of tributes being left there, from pictures, to bottles of alcohol, and articles of clothing. This was not a place for the public. This was a place that we Infantry Marines felt was ours. Our solemn ground, where we could hold onto fleeting memories of some of the greatest men we have ever known.
When I first read the article that a group of atheists demanded that they be taken down, I grew enraged. The crosses had nothing to do with religion. We lost men of all religions during these wars, and we lost men that didn’t believe in god. Some of my fellow Marines who visited the cross on a daily basis were atheist, and they would defend that cross with their lives if it came down to it. I’m not a religious person at all, but I would do anything to defend that cross. What’s next? Are they going to dig up all the graves at Normandy Beach in France that honor our dead from World War II? Last time I checked that’s sovereign American ground with crosses and stars of David. As Marines, if we really wanted to offend people, we would have put a giant Jesus statue up with him pissing on a Koran, but we didn’t. We simply put up a cross, the same way a family puts one up at the side of a road where another family member had died in a car accident.
The way I see it is if you don’t like the cross, don’t look at it. If the very existence of the cross bothers them that much that they need it to be removed, well then the very existence of this group bothers me and a whole lot of other Marines enough that we would be more than happy to remove them from existence. We are not the Boy Scouts, and about the only thing worse than disrespecting our beloved Marine Corps is disrespecting our fallen warriors who have given them their rights with their lives.