General Douglas MacArthur famously noted that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away." Sometimes, though, before they fade away, they get angry. And a case being argued in the Supreme Court Wednesday has veterans seeing red, white, and blue-but mostly red.
Unsurprisingly, the case will go to the court courtesy of an ACLU lawsuit.
The object at the center of the case is a small, unadorned cross sitting in a remote part of the Mojave Desert Preserve in Southeast California. A veterans' group erected this memorial cross on private land in 1934 to honor the dead of all wars.
Driving by this secluded location today, however, you'll see a curious-looking plywood box hiding the memorial, the way someone might cover a condemned building. That box is there because one person filed suit, with the help of ACLU attorneys, claiming he was "offended" by the memorial cross. One offended man has somehow trumped the wishes of millions of veterans.
If a federal appeals court has its way, the box and the memorial soon will be gone forever. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court will review the ruling at the request of the Department of Justice, and in this case, millions of veterans, speaking through The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have added their voices in support. In fact, the American Legion Department of California and the Alliance Defense Fund have joined forces and filed a brief in support of the Department of Justice, asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.
The U.S. Government recently acquired the land on which the memorial sits when the site became part of the Mojave Federal Preserve. After the ACLU lawsuit was filed, Congress worked with veterans to honor their wishes and preserve the monument. It took an act of Congress to rescue the memorial from a federal court decision ordering its destruction. As part of its action, Congress voted to give an acre of land containing the memorial back to the veterans who maintained it for decades, in exchange for five acres deeded to the government. Giving up one acre to get five, and honoring veterans in the process, seemed like a good deal.
But not to the ACLU and its "offended" client.
To them, even this reasonable arrangement was intolerable. They pressed forward with their lawsuit saying the memorial must not be allowed to stand and the land transfer must be overturned; their hostility to a passive symbol of this sort is simply too great.