Spare the War Memorials, Yobs!

Posted: Oct 01, 2013 12:01 AM

While gridlock is the game in Washington, pilfering and degradation apparently are the pastime 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.

This past week in Natick, Mass., veterans and other law-abiding citizens were stunned to discover that 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 includes a piece of the twin towers and two military boots beside a wall of names of service members who died during the battles of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

WBZ-TV reported that this was not the first time the post had 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 have been a rash of war memorial vandalisms and defilements across the U.S. lately.

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 its Christian symbolism.

In the same month, a group of eight ransacked a cemetery in Colorado, damaging more than 150 headstones and shoving a Civil War memorial statue from its pedestal, breaking off its head.

For two centuries, Goodrich Cemetery, in a small township in Michigan, had been a quiet, unharmed resting place for, among others, Civil War and World War I veterans, until this past August, when about 40 vertical headstones were shoved over and damaged.

And last April, a Vietnam War memorial in Aberdeen, S.D., was damaged by a third-time drunken driving offender whose blood alcohol content was five times the legal limit.

That is only a small sample from the past 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 British slang for these unpatriotic thugs -- tore off and stole the bronze plates on the Orwell War Memorial, which bore the names of service members 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 for urinating on a war memorial to fallen warriors after consuming too much alcohol.

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-patriotic entities 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 the Forest Service's refusal, it reversed course. And this past June, a federal district court dismissed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statue.

Let us not forget how the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 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 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a cross displayed as part of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego 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 this past week when he retorted in grief about the war memorial's stolen helmet: "Shame on them!" He added, "(The memorial) means a lot. It means everything. There's a body attached to that helmet somewhere out there who gave up his life."

My middle brother's name, Wieland Norris, is etched on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington because he sacrificed his life in battle 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 Nov. 11, let's begin, in every community across America, to plan ways to honor those who have served our country -- past and present. You might even start by sharing this column. In addition, let us all step up and support organizations such as 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 information about how we can protect our nation, from our borders to your home, and the American dream, please check out my New York Times best-seller "Black Belt Patriotism."