US Marines Raise Memorial Cross at Camp Pendleton

A group of US Marines hand-carried a 13-foot cross to the top of a hill at Camp Pendleton, California, in honor of their comrades killed in action:

Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

At precisely the date and time when World War I officially ended, giving rise to Armistice Day — the forerunner to Veterans Day — the group erected a 13-foot cross. The cross replaced one put on the hill in 2003 by the Marines before they deployed to Iraq…

The cross, Rettenberger said, is dedicated to the memory of Maj. Douglas Zembiec, Maj. Ray Mendoza, Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin and Lance Cpl. Robert Zurheide…
Austin and Zurheide were killed in Fallouja in 2004; Mendoza was killed in 2005 while leading Marines into combat near the Syrian border; Zembiec was killed in 2007 while leading a raid on insurgents in Baghdad.

The memorialized Marines helped raise the original cross in 2003; it burned down in a brush fire in 2007, and a temporary replacement was erected nearby.  The new cross is flame resistant.  The Marines’ families were represented in the new cross’s placement.  The site has become a veritable memorial altar, with bottles of whiskey, unit coins, engraved rocks, and a plethora of other memorabilia memorializing US Marines who have given their lives in combat.

The LA Times took photos and a short video of the Marines hauling the large cross up the hill.  In an interesting frame shot, two dog tags are visible that appear to be from the same person.  For religion, one says “No preference,” the other says “Christian.”

Photo: Scott Radetski, 49, left, a retired Navy chaplain;  Marine Staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger; and Gunnery Sgt. Josue Magana, 32, erect a cross atop a hill at Camp Pendleton. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times