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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.
Tomb of the Unknowns
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.

Semper Fidelis

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Liz Harrison (twitter: @GoldwaterGal)

Liz is a mostly-retired veteran political campaign worker, wife, mom, opinionated gal, fiscal conservative, anti-social-conservative, atheist, and foreign affairs/Mid-East politics junkie.

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  1. What hatred for non-believing soldiers who have just as much right as anyone to be honored. This cross issue has nothing to do with truly neutral symbols such as the “Tomb of the Unknowns”. In fact, a quick google search shows numerous sites lamenting the removal “Christian Crosses” from Camp Pendleton and how this issue is a direct attack on Christianity. A more neutral symbol would serve everyone. The crosses should come down.

    1. well, FreeForAll, if you think it should come down why dont you come and try and take it from us? how is it hurting anyone? Atheists already have a symbol up there for them its nothing, what they believe in, leave the rest of us alone.

    2. You do understand that the people complaining about these crosses are not Marines, and do not have “legal” access to the site in question, right? No complaints have been made by non-believing soldiers – on the contrary, they have apparently added their own items to this memorial. Are you suggesting that the Marines at Camp Pendleton do not have the right to make a memorial to their fallen brothers in the way that they see fit? And this isn’t about Christianity or being inclusive, just because a group of atheists say it is. There is another religion involved in this one, and the only members of that faith are the men and women that wear the uniform of a Marine. But that was the point of this entire article, which was obviously missed!

    3. Well, considering the cross isn’t there to serve everyone, just the Marines and the Marines don’t have an issue with it, then I don’t think it needs to come down. I’m sure if the Marines had a problem with it, they’d take it down. And it doesn’t violate the Separation of Church and State as it was not an official monument created by the military. It was created by some Marines acting alone, not on orders. Just let them have their damn memorial and stay out of it.

    4. It’s sad when these group of people are so lonely and bored to mess with a place that there brothers in arms are being remembered and where others can hand over solvency to a higher being….I have no respect for a man, women or who ever who will take a place from someone that gives them clarity and a place to lay there burdens, shame on everyone who made this a religious battle and to try to be noticed for there BELIEFS….I am tired of people having the right that these people died for spit upon with actions like this….sad and disrespectful. Shame on all who fight to have this cross removed….and I mean this with every once of me, DAMNED IT BE…I hope when you all die, no one cries, erects a single sign to your time on this planet….since when u die that is all there is anyways….and yes shame on me for having no love, and able to live a life with hate that is balanced with love and tolerance, but I chose this day to not show tolerance to intolerant people who think they deserve such!

  2. There’s nothing wrong with paying respect to your Brothers-In-Arms. If you have an issue with it, pick up a rifle, stand a post, and go fight for YOUR beliefs, just like we fought for ours. Then maybe, just maybe you’ll understand our position as Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors; paying our respects to our Friends, Comrades, Battle Buddies. These people piss me off with their agenda’s. It’s not your place, it’s not your land, it’s not a religious symbol. It’s a MEMORIAL. PERIOD. Go find another fight, one worth fighting……you piss-ants.

  3. I guess atheists should pluck there eyes out than to be burdened with such a sight of this symbol! And please, don’t give me “such a christian sh*t” cause I ain’t, trust me, happily remove anyone from this planet and answer for it later!

  4. I am a Christian and a veteran. I am deeply offended by the fact that someone can say they are offended by something no matter what it is, demand it be removed from their sight. Not because I am Christian. I think some people should mind their own business. Some people are so pathetic and need some kind of drama going on their life to make it seem like they have a life. I guess to them being a lowlife is at least having a life for them. It’s so sad that someone would protest a symbol of a fallen warrior because it happened to have a cross. I mean come on. A marine won’t lay down for them. Maybe they bit off more than they can chew. God bless our fallen, those who have served, and them OL atheist.

  5. Face it: there is legal precedence from the ruling on the Mt Soledad cross. The cross “conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause”. Sorry guys, but you will lose against the courts every time. You never learn. All you can do is cry whenever people stand up to your religious nationalism. Welcome to 2012 on the internet, where you’re the minority. How does it feel now?

    1. The memorial would convey a message of endorsement, if it was created on the direct order of a member of the military brass. It was not. Not ordering the Marines on that base to remove it is not an endorsement of the memorial by the leaders of that base, nor is it the endorsement of the U.S. government in general. And I am an atheist. I am fed up with other atheists running around crying that they’re offended by this or that religious observance. In this case, it is none of their damned business. It is not on public property, in the sense that it is restricted access for safety and military reasons. Civilians have no business there, so these civilian atheists need to get over it!

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