Veterans Group Vows to Rebuild Mojave Desert Cross

By Melanie Hunter-Omar | May 11, 2010 | 4:49 PM EDT

This undated photo taken by Henry and Wanda Sandoz and made available Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009, by the Liberty Legal Institute shows the memorial known as the "Mojave Cross" on an outcrop in the Mojave National Preserve, in Calif. (AP Photo/Liberty Legal Institute, Henry and Wanda Sandoz)

( – The Veterans of Foreign Wars has vowed to rebuild a 7-foot high cross-shaped memorial to the nation’s veterans which was stolen by vandals over the weekend.
The cross was at the center of a legal fight that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the cross should remain on federal land.
“The memorial will be rebuilt and the vandals will be caught and prosecuted in federal court, since the crime occurred on government property,” said VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell, Sr.
Thieves cut the metal bolts that attached the cross to a rock in the Mojave Desert. Police believe the cross was stolen late Sunday or early Monday.

"This was a legal fight that a vandal just made personal to 50 million veterans, military personnel and their families," Tradewell said. "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 naive.”
Carol Musgrove, a spokesperson for VFW in Nevada, called the incident “sad.”
When asked whether she considered the theft a hate crime since it involved someone stealing a religious symbol, Musgrove said, “I don’t even think of it as a religious symbol.”
“I think of it as our memorializing these brave men that went off and fought against the Kaiser’s army far away in a land where they’ve never even thought they would be in their entire life. It’s a desecration of a memorial is what it is,” she added.
Joe Infranco, senior attorney Alliance Defense Fund, said a $25,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the capture and conviction of the perpetrators. The Alliance Defense Fund was involved with the American Legion and the American Legion Department of California to defend veterans’ memorials across the country.
When asked whether Infranco considered it a hate crime, he said, “I think the expression ‘hate crime’ is overused, and it gives me concern in other context. I would just say that this is a cowardly and criminal act that dishonors heroes who have given their lives for our country, and our view of it is those who deny our heritage and religious liberty are not going to succeed through vandalism under cover of darkness.”
"We hope this horrible act will highlight the importance of resolving this case quickly so that the memorial and land can be transferred to the VFW so that the service and sacrifice of all American war dead will be properly recognized and honored, as originally intended by a group of World War I VFW members 76 years ago," Tradewell said.