Thursday, March 09, 2017 11:07 AM
Like many (the many being evidenced by the public outcry that led to its return) I was disappointed to see the cross removed from the Belle Plaine Veterans Memorial. I wanted to express just how happy I was to see how quickly the city responded to the Defend Veterans Park proposal as well as to explain exactly why this means so much to me as the mother of two veteran sailors, niece of a fallen WWII soldier and a friend to many other veterans.
One such friend is Hubert Cripe, a WWII pilot who now resides in Astoria, Ill. The symbol of the cross is of particular significance to him. When he was shot down in WWII, he spent 13 months as a prisoner of war. One of the most memorable stories he shares from this time took place at camp just outside Bath Germany.
While at this camp he was accused of some infraction he had no involvement in. Despite many protests on his part, the Germans responded by telling him someone would have to pay, and that someone would be him. He was sentenced to one week in “The Box,” which amounted to a form of torturous solitary confinement. On his way to The Box, a fellow POW handed him a copy of the Bible.
This book would be his only comfort during his time in solitary confinement. Over the next several days, he made his way through the text several times. He has said it gave him so much hope in a space where there was very little hope to be had.
As I reflected on this story in light of the removal of the cross at the Belle Plaine Veterans Memorial, I thought of how this cross was more than a symbol of Christianity. It is a symbol of hope for so many of these soldiers. It seemed like a mistake and a disservice to remove a symbol that has given service men and women like Hubert the strength to make it through to return home when their duty is done.
I’m pleased it has been returned to a position where it can continue to honor those it has brought solace to in the direst of circumstances.