The 7-foot-tall metal cross that has stood in California’s Mojave Desert for 75 years and withstood a hard-fought battle in the Supreme Court was ripped down and stolen Sunday night, according to state officials.
“This is an outrage, akin to desecrating people’s graves,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Liberty Institute, which represents the caretakers of the Mojave Desert War Memorial. “It’s a disgraceful attack on the selfless sacrifice of our veterans. We will not rest until this memorial is re-installed.”
The National Park Service says someone cut the metal bolts holding the metal-pipe cross to the top of Sunrise Rock and made off with it Sunday night or before dawn on Monday.
Veterans groups are outraged at the theft of the memorial symbol that was erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor World War I dead.
“To think anyone can rationalize the desecration of a war memorial is sickening, and for them to believe they won’t be apprehended is very naïve,” said VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. in a written statement.
The 75-year-old monument was the target of a legal challenge from the ACLU, which charged the cross is a religious symbol that shouldn’t be allowed on public land. The U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to order that it be torn down, as the land had already been sold to private owners.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.