VA removed battlefield crosses from cemeteries. The House just passed a bill to protect them.

Abbie Bennett
November 13, 2019 - 8:20 am
BattlefieldCross

Photo by Airman 1st Class Juan Torres

This story was originally published on Oct. 29. 2019 at 10:55 a.m. It was updated on Nov. 13, 2019 at 9:20 a.m.

Battlefield crosses, which usually include boots, rifle and helmet, at national cemeteries in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan were removed two years ago from Department of Veterans Affairs cemeteries after a VA employee interpreted a policy to prohibit displays of weapons. 

Veterans and other advocates pushed back on the decision, alleging the VA  staffer misunderstood the policy or was ignorant of the iconic marker. 

The outcry that followed the memorials’ removal led VA to return the symbols and alter its policy. But House Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said VA could change its mind at any time and has introduced legislation to protect the memorials. 

"This bill is necessary to codify that policy and make sure VA does not ban this sacred image ever again," Roe said.

On Tuesday, the House passed that bill by voice vote.  

The bill, HR 1424, is intended “to ensure the secretary of Veterans Affairs permits the display of fallen soldier displays in national cemeteries” and specifically says that “the secretary shall permit the display of a fallen soldier display in any national cemetery,” referring to “a memorial monument in honor of fallen members of the Armed Forces that may include a replica of an inverted rifle, boots, helmets and identification tag.” 

The symbol is seen "on battlefields, ships, aircraft carriers" and is a "symbol of respect and thanks," Roe said. "It is a powerful symbol we use to honor our fallen warriors." 

The bill passed out of the House Tuesday and next heads to the Senate before going to the president for final approval. 

Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said the bill would "ensure these memorials are not mistakenly removed" and the bill is "an effort to pay tribute to Armed Services members who made selfless sacrifices to our nation." 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett