In 2003 seven Marines grieving over lost friends and comrades in the War on Terror erected a wooden cross in a secluded area of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base California. It was set up as a memorial for all lives lost, a place where brothers and sisters in arms could grieve the loss of team mates, battle buddies, swim buddies, an extended family that laid down their lives for us, this country and those team mates. It was a place for the wives of lost Marines to remember their husbands, their children’s fathers, the lost half of their souls. There are no advertisements for the memorial, there is Military affiliation, other than being on a Military installation. A few years ago a wild-fire destroyed the original cross, since then 2 more hand-made crosses were carried up the hill, a 3000 foot hike and placed where the burned one sat. Since then the site has become somewhat of a shrine with items such as Purple Heart Medals,pictures, books, messages, mementos from deployments around the globe and even a bottle or can of the fallen’s favorite liquor…all left in remembrance. No one other than the Marines who put it up and the widows would have known about it until a newspaper reported on the site and gave a detailed location and pictures of the site.
Since the newspaper article Atheists have attacked the site. Saying they want the crosses moved off of Camp Pendleton and on to private land. They never would have known about the site, yet now they want it moved. There are countless memorial sites on Military installations across the country and around the world, are the Atheists going to scour every inch of every place every Military member has ever been? Are they going to make every National Cemetery get rid of every headstone that has any religious significance or reference?
Chaplains, crosses, bibles, and religion have been part of the military since its inception. Prayer and a visit from a Chaplain are the two biggest moral boosts a Soldier can get while deployed. Most Soldiers I know carry some sort of religious item with them into combat, whether it be a cross on a chain, rosary beads, a bible, a Koran, a Yarmulke, a copy of the Jewish writings, a challenge coin from a Chaplain. and I have even seen Satanists carry a copy of the Satanic bible. The Military has Chaplains of every faith from Christian, Jewish Rabbis, Muslim Imams, Lutherans, Baptists, and even Mormon ministers, they are an integral part of Military culture.
There are memorials on every Military installation, Forward Operating Base, Combat Out Post and any where service members stay for any period of time. We remember the fallen, to forget them would be to dishonor them. Most of the memorials are religious in nature, and the majority are Christian memorials with crosses. It is not because the Military prefers Christianity over any other religion, it is simply because there are more Christians in the Military than any other religious group. The Military does not discriminate in what religious group sets up a memorial, the only requirement is that it is not offensive or disrespectful to the United States or the Military.
I am a religious lay leader in the Army, I can perform a modified mass, I can do the readings and give the communion in the absence of a Catholic Priest. I can’t read the Gospel or give the sermon or perform marriages or last rites or hear confession, but with out an actual Priest I’m the next best thing. And I have had 2 Atheists come up to me in combat prior to going on a mission and ask me, “Sergeant Hoffman do you think you can say a prayer for me, you know so I can come back safe?” I have heard Atheists saying prayers themselves while in a fire fight or during incoming rocket and mortar fire. Why is God and religion good enough for them when they are in a life and death situation, but symbols are not good enough for us in remembrance of those who never came home?
This anti-religion bull needs to stop. No Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Mormon, Wiccan, Satanist I know ever demanded an Atheist stop saying there is no God. If you disagree with someones religious views don’t listen to them. If you don’t like a religions symbol don’t look at it. If you don’t like places of worship don’t go to them. Do not force your views on us, we are not forcing ours on you. I would like to remind every one that this country was founded on religious freedom, our Constitution and our laws are based on the 10 commandments, we are not a theocracy but we are free to worship as we choose. As long as the Military does not show a preference for one religion over the other what is the problem. Atheists are not the only group in this world live with every one or find somewhere else to go.