Following 10-plus years of legal conflict thanks to a nuisance lawsuit filed in 2001 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a federal judge has finally ruled that a cross placed in the Mojave Desert in 1934 to honor World War I veterans may remain there permanently.
In the settlement approved April 23, the National Park Service will turn over the hilltop area known as Sunrise Rock, upon which the simple cross sat before being removed by the park service, in return for the private donation of five acres elsewhere in the 1.6 million acre preserve in Southern California. The care of the cross site will fall to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Barstow, California, along with the Veterans Home of California-Barstow, reported the Associated Press.
“Once the swap is complete, the park service will fence the site, leaving entrances for visitors, and post signs noting that it is private land,” reported AP. Said Mojave National Preserve spokeswoman Linda Slater of the lengthy legal wrangling: “We want to wrap this, we want to get it done. No cross can go up until the exchange is complete.”
The land is being donated by Henry and Wanda Sandoz, who lived in the area before moving to Yucca Valley. Henry had promised World War I veteran Riley Bembry, who first erected the cross in 1934, that he would continue caring for the site after Bembry died, and Wanda said that over the years her husband cared for or replaced several crosses that had been stolen or defaced. “We love the cross,” she told AP. “It’s in a beautiful spot…. My husband is not a veteran, but he feels like this is something he can do for our country.”
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