An icon located along a lonely desert road deep in the heart of the Mojave National Preserve is gone.
The Mojave Cross, June 2007.The WWI memorial, located high atop "Sunrise Rock", was originally erected in 1934 by Veterans including John Riley Bembrey, a medic during the conflict. It has since been replaced by a more durable, metal cross in place of the weather-worn wooden one. In my travels I pass the controversial landmark a few times a month. Until this year the cross' history and struggle have only been important to a few. That all changed early this year when the U.S. Supreme Court took the legal case of Salazar v. Buono in an effort to help decide the future of the cross' position within the Mojave National Preserve. The High Court recently ruled on the case and, in part, stated that a land transfer to remove the cross from Federal land ruled against by the Ninth Court of Appeals was indeed a valid one and returned the case to the lower court for further action. (There are tons of places on the net to find more information...do some searching.)
The Mojave Cross (covered due to court order) in January of 2010.
The Cross is exposed shortly after vandals removed the court-ordered cover, June 2007 (the wooden box used to cover the cross is visible at the base of the rock.)
I was shocked today when I rode past Sunrise Rock only to find the Mojave Cross missing. I walked around the base of the rock in the hopes of finding the fallen memorial. Finding nothing, I then ascended the steep desert rocks in an effort to satisfy my curiosity. Where had the Mojave Cross gone? How could such a durable, heavy, large object that I had seen just one week earlier be gone? Who could have committed such a cowardly act? Upon arriving at the top of the rocks, I again saw nothing. No fallen cross. Nothing. All that remains are some chunks of old concrete and three bolts, showing clear evidence of having been recently cut off. Someone went there with a plan, there is no doubt.
All that remains. Bolts have been cut off and the cross has been stolen.
It's a sad day when a piece of history is destroyed. What's even worse to me is that someone probably had to drive 3 hours or more in order to steal this memorial to fallen soldiers of WWI. It disgusts me to see how despicable some people truly are. I hope the culprits are caught and convicted of this theft. Whoever did this is cowardly and juvenile.
I stopped at the Headquarters of the Mojave National Preserve in Kelso to see what I could find out. I spoke to a handful of employees (I think at least a couple of them were actually volunteers) who indicated that the box covering the cross had been removed sometime Saturday May 8th or Sunday May 9th and the cross was removed sometime during the overnight hours of Sunday or predawn hours Monday May 10th. They told me one of the NPS Law Enforcement Rangers traveled out to Sunrise Rock early today (Monday) to investigate. The NPS personnel I spoke to at the Kelso Depot explained to me that they were not authorized to comment further.
All photos Copyright 2007-2010, ScottWright.net - may not be copied, reused, or distributed without permission.