BLADENSBURG – On Memorial Day, the American Legion Post #131 (Colmar Manor) joined local politicians and county residents in Bladensburg to honor local veterans. The ceremony was scheduled to take place at the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, known locally as the Peace Cross, but moved to the Bladensburg town hall due to inclement weather.
About 60 people attended the ceremony. People from various veterans associations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, attended as well.
“It’s a tribute to the veterans who have passed,” said Phil Holcroft, past commander of Post #131.
The ceremony is held annually on Memorial Day in the Veterans Memorial Park in Bladensburg, which includes monuments to veterans who died in World War II, Pearl Harbor, Korea-Vietnam and the Battle of Bladensburg.
According to the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, a projected 59,000 veterans lived in Prince George’s County in 2017, which is the largest number in any Maryland county.
“As a son of a Vietnam War veteran and a veteran myself, Memorial Day is a solemn and somber day of reflection of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom,” said County Executive Rushern Baker, III. “In 1925, the citizens of Prince George’s County erected the Peace Cross in Bladensburg to remember the 49 Prince Georgians who lost their lives during World War I.”
Baker served in the Army Reserve in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1987 to 2008.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in October that the Peace Cross violates the Establishment Clause because the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a local government agency, pays for the maintenance of the memorial. The court determined because the memorial is in the shape of a Latin cross, it references Christianity and therefore the government’s involvement violates the separation of church and state. The court later denied a request for an en banc rehearing.
The M-NCPPC appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The First Liberty Institute, which represents the American Legion, plans to file an appeal to the Supreme Court in late June.
“For over 90 years, the Peace Cross has been the County’s signature memorial to our veterans and fallen soldiers. I am committed to doing everything in my power to stop the destruction or removal of the Peace Cross,” Baker said.
Baker has directed the county office of law to support the appeal the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation filed with the United States Supreme Court, as well as to file briefs in support of preserving the memorial.