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Atheists, Marines Debate Camp Pendleton Crosses

A Marine Corps ruling on the future of a pair of crosses at the top of a steep Camp Pendleton hill isn't expected until next year.

An atheist group wants the crosses to come down. Many Marines and their families want the crosses to stay in honor of comrades killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Base officials have sent a recommendation to Washington, but won't say what it is.

Jason Torpy of the Association of Atheists and Freethinkers told the North County Times he has been bombarded with hate mail, threats and phone calls from people angry at his group for demanding removal of the crosses.

He said there can still be a memorial on the site, but it should be the Marine Corps globe or a nonreligious symbol.

"This can be fixed today unless the Marine Corps is going to insist on having government promotion of Christianity," said Torpy, a 10-year veteran of the Army and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The first 13-foot cross was placed high above the base's Camp Horno in August 2003 by a group of Marines, including several who were later killed in fighting in Iraq. The cross was destroyed by fire in 2007. A new cross was erected in 2008, about 60 feet from the original.

The Los Angeles Times wrote a story about the memorial when another cross was erected at the site on Veteran's Day 2011. That's when opponents learned about the crosses, which are not visible from nearby Interstate 5.

There is more to the memorial than the crosses.

Both are surrounded by thousands of rocks carried up by Marines. Many have handwritten messages of love and remembrance.

There are dozens of bottles of liquor, most unopened, each representing a dead Marine's favorite drink, the North County Times said. A reporter for the paper was among a group of journalists who recently visited the site.

There's a football, a still-working watch, pictures of fallen Marines and numerous ID tags from those who didn't make it back alive. Rosaries, boots, cigarette packs and lighters also have been left.

Getting to the site is part of the tribute. Marines take the steepest path because the intensity of the 3,000-foot climb is viewed as nothing when compared to "the ultimate sacrifice" made by the troops who have died, a base spokeswoman told the North County Times.

The silence at the hilltop is interrupted only by wind or echoes of live-fire exercises taking place on other parts of the 125,000-acre base.

Jennifer Tully of Valley Center lost her Marine husband to suicide and was with the group that put up the Veteran's Day cross.

"It's a memorial site to everyone, and no one is forced to go up there," said Tully, who also carried a small U.S. flag to the hilltop that day. "It's a place where troops and family members can go and honor the memories and grieve for the losses they have suffered.

"I know we put our heart, soul and tears into getting that cross up there."

In a Dec. 13 letter, former Marine and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, urged Col. Nicholas Marano, the commanding officer of Camp Pendleton, to keep the crosses, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

"Honoring the nation's military with symbols of faith is a tradition that is on display in national cemeteries from Fort Rosecrans to Arlington, as well as other places that pay tribute to the Armed Forces," Hunter wrote.

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Avatar for user 'bbarron2'

bbarron2 | April 14, 2012 at 6:40 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Actually there is an easy way around this. Another way is to put about 500 armed marines at the top and dare anyone to take it down.
This is a symbol of Christianity and in no way promotes it nor can the atheists prove that anyone they know has become a Christian by the mere appearance of the Cross
Take the crosses down and leave an atheist in its place because it is a religion of nihilism and if not that then the worship of man.Leave an atheist hanging there.Everyone knows this.
Put a sign up there that says this empty space represents the religion of atheism.
Furthermore it is almost impossible to be an atheist.Even they admit they must annihilate what they do actually believe in because they cannot accept the commands of being a Christian and are looking for a means to excuse their actions.There is something they must believe in or exists in order to disprove or destroy it.
"This can be fixed today unless the Marine Corps is going to insist on having government promotion of Christianity," said Torpy, a 10-year veteran of the Army and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. IS THIS NOT ABSURD?
See Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas V 3 Supplement QQ 1-99
Go to appendix and the article on "Fortitude" by Rev. J. J. McDonald.
How do Crosses promote Christianity any more than a mosque promotes islam.
How does a Buddist Temple promote Buddism.The whole argument is absurd so they have to go to the separation of state and church which is not completely possible and no one can prove that it is possible as far as Christianity goes.We are not a theocracy.It is no longer workable.It was and did work at one time and only one.
God is first and above country and even family.Men serve because of their faith and the the non representation of this is reprehensible.
In both world wars 40% of the men serving were Catholic when they represented less than 1/3 or closer to 1/4 of the population.Hardly a non Catholic or Catholic or Jew didn't believe in God. Because the country has the Judeo-Christian ethic does not mean the star of David belongs there or some mosque.
What Christianity has done for the world,the world should be constantly reminded of.And that's all there is.

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