The World War I Memorial Peace Cross in Bladensburg. (Mark Gail/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
September 21, 2012

On July 12, 1925, a small ceremony took place in Bladensburg, Prince George’s County, to dedicate a Memorial Peace Cross so that (as The Post reported at the time) “future generations . . . may be reminded of the 49 young men of (the) county who made the supreme sacrifice in the world war.”

Following a keynote address by Rep. Stephen Gambrill, in which the congressman implored the audience to “keep fresh the memory of our boys who died for a righteous cause,” an American flag at the base of the monument was removed to reveal a bronze plaque with the names of the 49 men. Beneath the names appeared the words of President Woodrow Wilson: “The right is more precious than peace. We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts. To such a task we dedicate our lives.”

Those in attendance 87 years ago were there to erect not a symbol of Christian primacy but rather an everlasting reminder of the virtues of courage, endurance, devotion and valor (the four words along the base of the memorial). Yet in recent weeks, the American Humanist Association, a Washington group attempting no doubt to generate publicity, questioned the manner in which those of the World War I generation chose to honor their fallen. The organization argues that the cross violates the Constitution’s separation of church and state, since it now sits on state-owned property.

Fred Edwords, who, according to The Post, brought the cross to the attention of the association, said the cross made him feel uncomfortable when he drove by it recently. The American Humanist Association had the audacity to warn the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission that it had two weeks to take steps to remove the cross or else risk litigation.

When I read of Edwords’ “discomfort” with driving by the memorial, I thought of Pfc. Howard H. Morrow, whose name is one of the 49 inscribed on the Peace Cross. Morrow received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest decoration for valor, for his actions during the final Allied offensive of World War I. His citation reads: “Going forward from his own lines through terrific machine-gun and artillery fire, Private Morrow rescued and brought to safety a wounded comrade.” Because of wounds received during this selfless act, Morrow died a few days later.

In this era of hypersensitivity, Edwords and his associates feel justified in demanding a monument built on the blood and sacrifice of a few of our forefathers be torn down, so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the benefactors of that sacrifice. Sadly, this affair is emblematic of the widening gap between those few who have participated in the dirty business of defending freedom and those who have not. If this nation is to endure, it is imperative that we, as Gambrill said almost a century ago, “keep fresh the memory of [those] who died for a righteous cause.”

The writer is an Iraq war veteran and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.