FALLEN WARRIOR BATTLEFIELD CROSS MEMORIAL ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 180
(House of Representatives - November 12, 2019)

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[Pages H8761-H8763]
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             FALLEN WARRIOR BATTLEFIELD CROSS MEMORIAL ACT

  Mr. TAKANO. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 1424) to amend title 38, United States Code, to ensure the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs permits the display of Fallen Soldier 
Displays in national cemeteries.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 1424

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Fallen Warrior Battlefield 
     Cross Memorial Act''.

     SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR FALLEN SOLDIER DISPLAYS IN NATIONAL 
                   CEMETERIES.

       Section 2403 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by 
     adding at the end the following new subsection:
       ``(d)(1) Subject to standards established by the Secretary, 
     the Secretary shall permit the display of a Fallen Soldier 
     Display in any national cemetery.
       ``(2) In this subsection, the term `Fallen Soldier Display' 
     means 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 SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Takano) and the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. David P. 
Roe) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.


                             General Leave

  Mr. TAKANO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and 
to insert extraneous material on H.R. 1424.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from California?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. TAKANO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1424, the Fallen Warrior 
Battlefield Cross Memorial Act, introduced by Representative Anthony 
Gonzalez of Ohio.
  This act permits the Secretary of the VA to allow the Fallen Soldier 
Display, also known as the Battlefield Cross Memorial, in national 
cemeteries.
  Battlefield crosses honor fallen soldiers using symbols of their 
service. These symbols have evolved since their

[[Page H8762]]

initial use in the American Revolutionary War when they were used as a 
crude marker as the position of a fallen soldier. The cultural position 
remains today, as units in theater traditionally hold a remembrance 
ceremony in country to allow the unit to pay last respects to those 
killed in action.
  These displays are meant to honor those who lost their lives in 
service by featuring replicas of inverted rifles, boots, helmets, and 
identification tags. A U.S. Army field manual states: ``The helmet and 
identification tags signify the dead soldier. The inverted rifle with 
bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute 
to our comrade. The combat boots represent the final march of the last 
battle.''
  VA's National Cemetery Administration currently allows for display of 
a cross, but it has not specifically addressed the Battlefield Cross 
Memorial. In fact, in 2017, a Battlefield Cross Memorial was removed 
from the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.
  Though the cemetery ultimately decided to restore the memorial, this 
legislation would ensure the Battlefield Cross Memorial would also be 
permitted at national cemeteries and prevent future misinterpretations.
  Mr. Speaker, we recognize the sacrifices of the women and men who 
gave their lives in service to our Nation and the right of a community 
to honor its fallen heroes. I urge all Members to support H.R. 1424, 
and I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DAVID P. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time 
as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 1424, the Fallen Warrior 
Battlefield Cross Memorial Act. This bill would require the Department 
of Veterans Affairs' national cemeteries to allow the display of the 
battlefield cross, which is a monument that depicts a fallen 
servicemember by an inverted rifle with a helmet and dog tags on top 
and a pair of combat boots at the bottom. We have all seen this.
  In 2017, a VA employee misinterpreted VA policy and removed a 
battlefield cross from the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, as 
well as two other similar memorials in cemeteries in Illinois and 
Michigan. The objection to the memorials were that they contained 
realistic depictions of firearms.
  As one Ohio veteran described, this image is one that veterans ``have 
seen in battlefields, on ships, on aircraft carriers, wherever we lost 
men. It's a symbol of respect and thanks. . . . It means a lot to 
veterans.''
  I could not have said it better myself, Mr. Speaker; although, I do 
note that the battlefield cross is a powerful symbol that is used to 
honor all of our fallen warriors, both men and women.
  In response to veterans' and congressional concerns over the 
incident, the Department reinstated the memorial monuments and 
clarified that VA cemeteries can display this image. However, this bill 
is necessary to codify that policy and to ensure that VA does not ban 
this image ever again.
  This bill has my full support, and I appreciate Congressman Anthony 
Gonzalez from Ohio for introducing it and for his leadership on this 
issue.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. TAKANO. Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers. I am prepared to 
close, and I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DAVID P. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the 
gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Gonzalez), the author of this bill. I 
appreciate the gentleman is a new Member, but it didn't take him long 
to jump into gear and to recognize a wrong and to right that wrong.
  Mr. GONZALEZ of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1424, the Fallen Warrior 
Battlefield Cross Memorial Act is the first piece of legislation I 
introduced as a Member of Congress, and it is fitting that we discuss 
it on the floor today, just one day after Veterans Day.
  This bipartisan legislation would protect the display of these 
memorials at our national cemeteries and bar the Department of Veterans 
Affairs from removing these tributes, as they did in national 
cemeteries across the Midwest in 2017. This legislation comes straight 
from the veteran community and my northeast Ohio district.
  Over the past several years, Elton Boyer, the president of the 555th 
Honors Detachment, made this bill his mission as he worked to erect a 
Battlefield Cross Memorial at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in 
Seville. He and the honors detachments at Western Reserve collected the 
spent brass from the military funerals they oversaw at the cemetery 
with the goal to someday melt them down and form them into a 
heartwarming tribute to the fallen warriors laid to rest.
  When Battlefield Cross Memorials were removed from the cemetery in 
the fall of 2017, Elton's work was put at risk. Elton wrote my 
predecessor, Congressman Jim Renacci, for help, stating: ``It has been 
said that the soldier's cross is a symbol for caring, honoring, 
and remembering. `No one is left behind.'''

  Elton passed away last month, but I know that he is looking upon this 
House today, proud of the vote we are about to take. His efforts were 
not in vain.
  Battlefield Cross Memorials stand in cemeteries across our Nation as 
a tribute to the service of fallen soldiers who have given their lives 
for our country. They depict the soldier's boots, helmet, dog tag, and 
inverted rifle, and have been a noncontroversial, time-honored 
tradition since at least the Civil War.
  As Strongsville, Ohio, VFW Commander Tim Zvoncheck told me: ``It's 
imperative that this custom continues to be displayed for as long as 
the sons and daughters of this Nation are willing to give their lives 
in its defense.''
  Michael Kuhn, a combat veteran from Massillon, Ohio, explained to me 
what this memorial means to him:

       The battlefield cross encapsulates so many of the most 
     important things to a combat vet: the rifle, the boots, the 
     tags, and, most of all, the fallen comrade. It's extremely 
     important for us to have those things wrapped up in one 
     memorial for us to kneel to, grieve with, and talk to our 
     brothers in arms that have died the ultimate death in laying 
     down their life for us and their country. As a combat vet, 
     you relate to very little outside of that world and always 
     feel like an outsider. Whenever you see that combat cross, it 
     brings a somber, quiet feeling of peace for that moment that 
     you have that direct line to your fallen comrade.

  I thank Chairman Takano and Ranking Member Roe for bringing H.R. 1424 
to the floor today and recognizing how important this legislation is to 
our veteran communities, and I urge my colleagues to vote in support of 
the bill, H.R. 1424.
  Mr. DAVID P. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I have no further 
speakers. I am prepared to close, and I yield myself the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. Speaker, I can think of no other time better than the day right 
after Veterans Day to bring this up and to vote on this legislation.
  I have lost friends in combat in the Vietnam War and know many 
families, as most of us have visited with families who have lost 
members.
  I also want to say that nowhere in the country--really, in the 
world--do we honor our cemeteries more than the VA does. The VA does a 
phenomenal job in our national cemeteries. And I have had an 
opportunity to travel to Europe and visit those cemeteries in Normandy, 
Flanders Field, Chateau-Thierry, and many others.
  It is really a place of sacred honor, these cemeteries are, and it is 
only appropriate that we allow and have this symbol there codified by 
law.
  I thank Congressman Gonzalez for his first bill. He can take great 
pride in having this bill passed and signed into law by the President.
  Mr. Speaker, I encourage all of our Members to support H.R. 1424, and 
I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. TAKANO. Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the remarks 
of the ranking member regarding the beautiful work that our Cemetery 
Administration does for our veteran cemeteries and the National Battle 
Monuments Commission for the work they do with our cemeteries abroad. 
They are truly the pride of our country and fitting ways to show our 
gratitude and respect for those who have fallen in the service of our 
country.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank Representative Gonzalez for his work on this 
bill. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing H.R. 1424, and I yield 
back the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1745

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr.

[[Page H8763]]

Takano) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 1424.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

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