Wednesday, May 31, 2006 | Fifteen years after it was ordered off the mountain, the cross/memorial on Soledad still stands, and from the looks of things it’ll be there until I get old and creaky. Unlike me, that old cross/memorial is impervious to temporal things. It weathers everything without regard to age, politics, or law. Always there, ablaze in the sun’s early morning rays, and defiantly gleaming until the sun finishes its orbit around the world and disappears into the ocean out there near the edge of the earth, it stands as defiant as its supporters.
And the defenders are defiant – and loud! Those who don’t like it are told “just sit down and shut up.” I don’t keep with religious things too much but I sometimes wonder if that “sit down” thing isn’t one of the Ten Commandments.
But this cross/memorial thing is still important, and considered as such by people as far away as The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and possibly even Washington, D.C. Some say the president has even heard about it, but it’s hard to tell exactly what he has heard of.
The problem seems to stem from the shape of the thing. According to Bill Kellogg, head of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association “It’s in the eye of the beholder.” Our mayor and many others claim it was never a religious monument but has always been a memorial to all fallen service people, no matter their religion.
All that might have been a surprise to the grandmother of Mr. Kellogg. She prepared a brochure in which she dedicated it to our Lord and Savior for the ceremony held on Easter, not Memorial Day, in 1954. Is it just a coincidence that sunrise services have nearly always been held there on Easter Sundays?
Things like that tend to confuse some folks.
No matter. As usual, I have a solution that would solve the problem and satisfy everybody. We should erect a statue of a San Diego hero, and I have just the guy. This fellow is so big that even a life-size statue could be viewed from afar.
My hero is a real life giant indeed and he should be recognized and seen as an inspiration to all. When his country called on him to serve, he didn’t discover a pilonidal cyst on his rear or say “find me a job in the National Guard in Texas or Alabama where I won’t get shot at.” Not him. He went to the draft board and volunteered to fight in one of the most unpopular wars (until 2003 at least) in our history. He was in Vietnam from September 1966 to January 1968. This included an extension he also volunteered for.
And action? He was a grunt and took part in many of the bloodiest battles of the war. One started with 200 men and only 40 came through unscathed. More than half were killed. Today he and another highly regarded veteran of that war, Duncan Hunter, are members of the 173rd Airborne Association. Although both are very well known you seldom hear their names mentioned together.
My hero isn’t just a war hero either. He has been an exemplary citizen also. He’s well educated with a bachelor’s degree plus two masters. After his stint in Vietnam he taught English as a second language to Vietnamese refugees who fled their country.
My hero believes that obeying the law is one of our most important and patriotic duties. He is active in politics, unafraid to support even unpopular candidates or causes when most, less resolute folks, just want discomfiting things to go away.
One case he became involved in has brought him nearly two decades of unrelenting, vitriol urged on by people in high places in and out of the government. Still, although slowed down by the long battle, plus failing health and encroaching old age, he has persisted even in the face of death threats.
Surely such a hero and veteran is worthy of a statue.
His name is Phillip Paulson.
Who on earth could object to that?
Keith Taylor is a retired navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at KRTaylorxyz@aol.com. Or write a letter to the editor.