The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently found the cross on Mount Soledad unconstitutional. Cross or not, the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial doesn’t measure up to traditional definitions of memorials. When Congress appropriated the land in 2006 they called it “a historically significant national memorial” and “a tribute for over 52 years to the members of the United States Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives in the defense of the United States.” However, what sits atop Mount Soledad is intrinsically local and much more confusing.
According to Professor Marita Sturken of New York University, memorials exist to remember those who sacrificed their lives for a particular set of values, while monuments signify victory. Both frame a particular historical narrative or, when official, provide closure on a specific conflict or the sanctioned history of a war. The Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial does not meet these criteria.
According to remarks made by Chairman and CEO of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association William Kellogg at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Ceremony 2010, only 30 percent of those named on plaques glued to Soledad’s walls are dead: The majority of the people honored there are still alive.
Unlike the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial whose presence changed perceptions of that war, the Mount Soledad site does not frame a historically important national narrative or provide closure. Nor does it sanction official history, unless it is the history of exclusionary behavior by the village of La Jolla.