KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- "Our original plan was to put this up when we got the money, and we just got the money," said AMVETS Post 63 Spokesman Don Zoutte. That money, some $5,400 will pay for a bronze fallen soldier memorial from Maryland based "The Large Art Company." Zoutte says the bronze memorial will soon go up at Young's Park, after arriving on October 12. The goal is to dedicate the memorial on Veterans Day.
"It`ll be a true memorial to everybody, not just one. There`s no religious connotation to it. There`s no black, white, green. No race, creed, color designation, no gender designation, it`s pretty PC," said Zoutte. Zoutte says he hopes the new memorial will put to bed all of the controversy that has surrounded the community over the current memorial that's there. "It was never, ever, ever meant to offend anybody. I`m the one that put it up...we didn`t see it as a religious symbol...a warrior saying goodbye to another warrior, and not even once did we think about that as being a cross. It was a grave marker, and obviously somebody doesn`t agree with that," said Zoutte.
Now the question is what to do about the silhouette of the soldier kneeling at the cross. At a recent city council meeting, city council members said they wanted to avoid a costly legal battle with Washington, D.C. based "Americans United for Separation of Church and State," which sent a letter to Knoxville city leaders asking that the cross be removed. The organization claims having the cross on government property is unconstitutional. "The problem with going to court is it`s not talking a hundred thousand, it`s talking millions by the time you're done," said Council Member David Roozeboom, while addressing the issue at that September 8 meeting, that was held at the Knoxville Performing Arts Center to accommodate all of the people that showed up to attend.
An attorney for Al Larsen (the Vietnam Veteran who created the display to honor his fallen friend) says the original memorial with the cross is lawful and does not violate the Constitution. "The Supreme Court just recently in the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial case made it very clear that crosses, when they`re part of a veteran`s memorial, depict the thousands of other crosses that mark American graves across the world, " said Senior Counsel for Texas based "Liberty Institute" - Roger Byron. "It is unfortunate that the AmVets felt pressured to change their memorial to fallen veterans. The Kneeling Soldier memorial is perfectly lawful, and in keeping with military history and tradition. As a veteran myself, it is disheartening to see the very Constitution all American service members swear to support and defend be twisted and used against them," said Byron in reaction to the news that the AMVETS Post 63 are putting up a new memorial at the city park.