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Posted: November 13, 2022
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
by Ted Stimpfel

    In recognition and observation of Veterans Day, I felt a tug to spend the morning, especially the 11th hour, at the Mojave Cross at Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve.

    This Veterans Day was the 10th anniversary of the Cross replacement and dedication after a 12-year legal battle that required an act of Congress and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    I had not been to the site since the dedication.  The site has a popular yearly Easter sunrise service but due to other Easter obligations, I have never attended.

    The drive to the memorial site now owned and maintained by the Veterans of Foreign Wars offered 90 miles of scenic desert beauty from Newberry Springs.  But the turnoff drive on Cima Road was disheartening.

    This was the first time that I have driven to the area since the horrible Dome Fire in August 2020, which burned much of a Joshua woodland forest.  Hundreds of thousands of Joshua trees were killed.  The Preserve estimates 1.3 million.

The Cross

    My visit to the Cross was tranquil.  I thought that perhaps there might be a memorial celebration at the infamous 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, commemorating the end of World War I in 1918.  I arrived at about 10:15 A.M. but I was alone with only my two dogs.

    Twenty minutes later, five young men who were camping about 3 miles away stopped by.  They were from the Orange County area and a couple of them were familiar with the history of Henry and Wanda Sandoz who were caretakers of the cross for many years.

    The campers too had expected a possible memorial celebration and had stopped by to attend.  Not finding one, one fellow climbed the rock, and they hung around for about 30 minutes before leaving.

    I stayed on, walking my dogs and enjoying the tranquility, and reflecting upon what has happened since the dedication 10 years ago in 2012.  Three years after the dedication, Henry Sandoz passed away.

    In the same year, a medical event almost took my own life.  The medical timing was bad, as being incapacitated for a while I was unable to intercede and block the remnants of the Henning Motel on Route 66 from being forcibly razed by the county.

    I was able to thankfully have the motel sign left alone through some discussions I earlier had with the then-owner, Larry Alexander.  I have been recently notified that the current owner now hopes to restore the sign.

    Of course, many other events flooded my mind as I walked over what I consider to be one acre of hallow ground.  After two hours, I also left (with my dogs), thankful that I had the opportunity to visit and pay homage to those honored by the site.

Plaque placed into the granite stone of Sunrise Rock.

A Youtube video of the history behind the Mojave Cross.


                                        ~ Ted

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