While gridlock is the game in Washington, pilfering and degradation apparently are pastimes of some unpatriotic thugs at war memorials across the country. For me, that is about as low as a nation and its people can go.
Last week in Natick, Mass., veterans and other law-abiding citizens were stunned to discover a soldier’s helmet – from one who died in battle – had gone missing from the community’s prized Fallen Soldier’s Memorial. The helmet was cemented atop a rifle that is part of a display that also included a piece of the Twin Towers and two military boots beside a wall of names of service men and women who died during the battles of World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
CBS Boston reported that this was not the first time the post has been vandalized: The present “We Support Our Troops” sign was chained in after the first one was stolen from the site last year.
Tragically, there has lately been a rash of war memorial vandalisms and defilements across the U.S.
A Vietnam Memorial in Coos Bay, Ore., made up of a concrete cross on a base with an inscription dedicating it “to the men who gave their lives” was bombed in August after an atheist group protested to its Christian symbolism.
In the same month, a group of eight ransacked a cemetery in Colorado, damaging more than 150 headstones, including shoving a Civil War memorial statue from its pedestal, breaking off its head.
For the past two centuries, the Goodrich Cemetery in a small township in Michigan was a quiet unharmed resting place for, among others, Civil War and World War I veterans, until this past August, too, when 35-40 vertical headstones were shoved over and damaged.
And these are only a small sample from the last few months of the war memorials broken across our country.
And the U.S. is not alone in its war memorial debauchery.
A month ago in England, a few more yobs – great U.K. slang for these unpatriotic thugs – tore off and stole the bronze plates on the Orwell War Memorial, which bore the names of soldiers who paid the ultimate price in two world wars.
Also, a flower garden in western England that was dedicated to a war hero who died in Afghanistan was flattened and desecrated with empty beer bottles.
And another yob’s recent contemptible illegality was rightly branded as “disgusting” by a Royal British Legion spokesman and “despicable” by the court, which also fined him 250 pounds with 85 pounds in fines for urinating on a war memorial to fallen warriors after consuming too much alcohol.
And, last April, an Aberdeen’s Vietnam War memorial was damaged by a third-time drunken driver offender whose blood-alcohol limit was five times the legal limit.
Tragically again, sometimes those who deface our war memorials can take the form of bureaucrats. In the world of political correctness, government officials and other pseudo-patriot groups have neutered war memorials and disgraced those they honor.
For example, as reported by the Congressional Prayer Caucus – one of the best fighting forces in Washington, in 2011, the U.S. Forest Service refused to renew a permit for a World War II Memorial with a statue of Jesus, erected by the Knights of Columbus in 1954 in Montana’s Flathead National Forest, citing concerns about potential litigation. Because 95,000 comments from God-fearing patriots across the U.S. flooded the offices of those opposing their refusal, they reversed course. And this past June, a federal district court dismissed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statue.
And let us not forget over the past few years how U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled crosses placed on Utah roadsides to honor fallen state troopers violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
And remember how a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a cross displayed as part of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, Calif., was unconstitutional.
Lastly, recall how the Marine Corps itself considered tearing down a Camp Pendleton cross meant to honor fallen heroes.
If stealing the helmet of a fallen warrior on a war memorial is the heinous act of a reprobate, what’s the difference in defacing and desecrating other war memorials by the removal of sacred symbols that have been a part of them for decades?
A tearful Harry Seaholm, a Navy veteran who served in World War II and the Korean War, spoke for all of us patriots last week when he retorted in grief about the war memorial’s stolen helmet, “Shame on them!” He added, “There’s a body attached to that helmet somewhere out there who gave up his life. [The memorial] means a lot. It means everything.”
My middle brother’s name, Wieland Norris, is etched on the Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington, D.C., for sacrificing his life in battle on June 3, 1970, so these war memorial vandalisms hit the core of my being and chap my hide.
It is every citizen’s solemn duty and moral obligation to honor those who have fallen in service to our country, not stomp on their memory. Their memorials are meant to move us to patriotic action, not perilous pilfering. Our patriotism and reciprocated service should be to preserve their memory, protect their honor and commemorate their service and sacrifice.
As Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg in 1863, “It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain …”
With Veterans’ Day coming up on Nov. 11, let’s even now in every community across America begin to plan ways to honor those who have served our country – past and present. You might even start by sharing this article. In addition, let us all step up and support organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project as a way to care for those who have cared for us and stand up against the thugs who try to dishonor them.
(For more about how we can protect our nation from our borders to your homes and the American Dream, please check out my New York Times bestseller, “Black Belt Patriotism.”)