By: Jeremy Dys, First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel.
They came from many walks of life, the 49 boys of Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Several were laborers like George Washington Farmer and William Lee–one white, the other African-American. One, Ernest Pendleton Magruder, was a well-known surgeon. Another, Henry Lewis Hulbert, a Medal of Honor recipient of a previous war, would again display such bravery that he would earn a Distinguished Service Cross.
Educated or not, white or black, rich or poor, their diverse backgrounds mattered little as they died on foreign soil in the final months of the “war to end all wars.” Their bodies were interred under small grave makers, including crosses, in cemeteries far too distant for their families to ever visit.
So, in 1925, a local post of The American Legion—now the largest veterans service organization in the country with approximately 2.2 million members—erected the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial to honor the 49 Bladensburg-area men who gave their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWI.
But the cross-shape of the monument is too much to bear for some humanists, who have sued to have the memorial deemed unconstitutional.