Veterans and those who wish to honor them gather each year at the Peace Cross Memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, which dates back to 1925 – and was rededicated on Friday.
Veterans and those who want to honor them gather each year at the Peace Cross Memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, which dates back to 1925 — and was rededicated on Friday.
Among the veterans, elected leaders and advocates in attendance was Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who said he was raised “just down the road” from the monument and remembers driving near the monument almost daily.
Ownership of the Peace Cross by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has been challenged as violating the separation of church and state. American Legion v. American Humanist Association was finally taken to the United States Supreme Court in 2018.
“As soon as I learned that a federal appeals court had ruled this Peace Cross to be unconstitutional, I was shocked and disgusted, and immediately began to fight back,” Hogan said Friday. He ordered the Maryland attorney general to file an amicus brief in the case.
“The idea that commemorating soldiers killed in action in foreign lands to make the world safe for democracy could be unconstitutional, in some way, was an insult to our veterans, and it went against everything that we represent as Americans,” he added.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 in favor of allowing the 40-foot monument to remain in its current location: in a circle at US Route 1/Baltimore Avenue and Annapolis Road, on public land.
“The people of this county first erected this Cross of Peace; people fought to maintain it, and now, thanks to the efforts of so many, it will forever be a landmark and a permanent memorial here,” Hogan said.
Friday’s ceremony was punctuated by heavy rain and the crowd was not always able to keep dry in the tents. Many people huddled under umbrellas.
The rain stopped during a rendering of the taps which preceded the reading of the names on the memorial – 49 Georgian princes who died in Europe during the First World War.
“It’s a privilege for me to be able to perform in honor of our fallen veterans,” said Robert Kiker, retired Lt. Col. of the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office. Many of Kiker’s current family members and ancestors are veterans.
“I’ve been playing for 25 years now at this Veterans Day service,” he said.
Kiker believes the monument represents the broader service of all veterans: “Today’s veterans may not be named on the wall, but they are remembered with the peace cross .”
The ceremony followed a full restoration of the structure’s concrete and decorative cladding. Over the years the wear and tear on the memorial has been compounded by lightning strikes and flood damage – it has even been hit by vehicles.
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