Nation pays tribute to sacrifices of veterans

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The donated land was owned by Sandoz and his wife, Wanda, of Yucca Valley.

Sandoz has cared for the memorial as a promise to World War I veteran Riley Bembry, who with other shell-shocked vets went to the desert to help heal and erected a wooden cross on Sunrise Rock in 1934. It was later replaced with a cross made of steel pipes.

Then Sunrise Rock became part of the Mojave National Preserve in 1994, putting the Christian symbol on public land.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2001 on behalf of a retired Park Service employee who argued the cross was unconstitutional on government property because of the separation of church and state, and federal courts ordered it removed.

Congress stepped in and ordered the land swap in 2003, but the courts rejected the transfer. The issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in April 2010 refused to order the cross removed.

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Storm-ravaged New York hosted the country’s largest Veterans Day parade with turnout sparse along portions of the 30-block route along Fifth Avenue.

Standing in warm fall sunshine, officials said veterans should be honored and remembered more than just one day a year.

“This nation has a special obligation to take care of you,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the crowd.

Several officials also made a note of mentioning Vietnam veterans. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

One Vietnam vet, 66-year-old Laurence Lynch of New York, said simply, “It’s about time. It’s about time.”

Along a number of blocks of the parade route, just a few dozen spectators were lined along the barricades.

Candice and Jeffrey Stark stood nearly alone on one stretch, waving tiny American flags. “We are shocked,” Candice Stark said. “Very disappointed and terribly appalled. Don’t get me started!”

The Long Island couple was among the many residents displaced by the storm. The military has been very visible in the Sandy cleanup, so the Starks said they went to the parade to show their appreciation.

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