The World War I memorial cross in Bladensburg (Algerina Perna /The Baltimore Sun via Associated Press)
By: Brett Reistad, the national commander of the American Legion
In 1919, Gold Star mothers of Prince George’s County wanted to create a monument for their 49 sons who fell in World War I. They chose the shape of a cross, copying the style of the headstones that stood watch over the graves of their sons, buried on European battlefields a world away. That monument, what we now know as the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, has stood watch over their memory for nearly 100 years.
The American Legion has a particular interest in the memorial. Our emblem is emblazoned on the memorial, at its very center. Some of the men who formed the American Legion carried the vision of these Gold Star mothers into reality. The local post took over the memorial project. In 1925, after years of work, the American Legion dedicated the memorial to the memory of the 49. Since then, the American Legion has continued to hold patriotic commemorative events there, recalling the service and sacrifice of those of our ranks who did not return home.
For nearly 100 years, the families of these 49 sons of Prince George’s County have considered the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial their sons’ gravestone. But last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the memorial violates the Constitution and must be removed.