Is a War Memorial’s Cross Illegal?

As a lowly corporal, Milton Edward Hartman’s death shouldn’t have drawn much attention. But on a summer day in 1919, it seemed as if half the town of Forestville, Md., came to his memorial service. His commanding officer attended, as did the bishop of Washington. As the Churchman periodical reported on July 19, 1919: “The whole countryside came to the memorial service, thronged the church and filled the churchyard ten feet deep around the church, listening and participating through the open doors and windows.”

Yet Cpl. Hartman’s body wasn’t there. He was killed in France on Oct. 10, 1918. Like too many U.S. Army infantrymen who fell in World War I, he was buried in an American cemetery on European soil. Military records indicate that Hartman was buried with his identification tags, one of which was attached to the cross-shaped marker hovering over his grave. Most men killed in the Great War were buried this way.

Today few remember the names of men who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their mothers knew that people often forget what they do not see.

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Jeremiah DysComment