Framework

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Scott Radetski, Karen Mendoza, Jon Gross and Shannon Book work to carry a 13-foot cross to the top of a mountain at Camp Pendleton to honor Marines who have fallen or been wounded in combat. The original cross, later destroyed by fire, was carried up in 2003 by seven people -- three of those seven have been killed in combat in Iraq. Radetski was a chaplain during the battle for Fallouja, Mendoza's husband was killed in combat, and both Gross and Book also served in Iraq during the battle for Fallouja.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

The 13-foot, fire-resistant cross is carried the last steps toward its final resting place high in the mountains of Camp Pendleton. An original cross, put up right before deployment to Iraq, was later burned down in a wildfire. The new cross was built by Scott Radetski, fireproofed and then driven down from the Seattle area.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Elena Zurheide, 28, of Tuscon, Az., breaks down as she touches the cross at its final destination. Zurheide's husband was killed in Iraq while she was pregnant with her son Robbie, who is now 7.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Shannon Book adds a stone to a pile marking what has become a memorial site high in the moutains of Camp Pendleton to honor those killed or wounded in battle. The stone was sent by De'on Miller, the mother of Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin, who was killed in combat in Fallouja, Iraq on April 26, 2004. Miller was unable to attend the gathering but got together enough money to buy a plane ticket for Book to fly out from North Carolina. Book, who was in Fallouja when Austin was killed, also carried the orignal cross up the hill in 2003.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Scott Radetski, 49, a retired Navy Chaplain, Marine Staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger, 31, and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Josue Magana, 32, erect the cross on top of a mountain that overlooks both the Pacific Ocean and the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton. All three served during the battle for Fallouja in 2004, which saw heavy fighting. Rettenberger is the recipient of two purple hearts and Magana was shot by insurgents during the battle of Fallouja.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Scott Radetski, 49, right, a retired Navy Chaplain, looks at the cross. Radetski built the cross in Washington state and drove it to California in the back of his pickup truck.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A dog tag with the likeness of Ray Mendoza, a Marine who was killed in Iraq, is fixed to the cross. The cross replaces one that Mendoza helped carry up the hill in 2003.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Rocks, hand-written notes, beer, military coins and other items have been left at the site of a cross since it was first erected in 2003. Retired Navy Chaplain Scott Radetski drove a new cross from Washington State to erect on Veterans Day to replace the original after it burned down in a wildfire.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Scott Radetski, Josue Magana and Justin Rettenberger work to secure the new cross. The cross to the left was erected after the first one burned down, but it was not in the original location nor was it fireproofed; Radetski wanted to put up a second cross that was permanent.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

The original cross was brought to the top in 2003 by, from left to right, Doug Zembiec, Jason Duty, Ray Mendoza, Scott Radetski, Robert Zurheide, Cpl. Dobberten (no first name available ) and Shannon Book. Zembiec, Mendoza and Zurheide were killed in action; the replacement cross was dedicated in their honor.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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Marines’ cross honors fallen comrades

Friday morning, as the nation observed Veteran’s Day, a small group trudged up a steep hill at Camp Pendleton. At precisely 11 a.m., the time when World War I officially ended, they erected a 13-foot cross to honor the memory of four Marine comrades killed in Iraq. The cross replaces one destroyed by a brushfire after being placed atop the hill in 2003 by the Marines before they deployed to Iraq.

Read Rick Loomis and Tony Perry’s full story.

9 Comments

  1. November 12, 2011, 9:54 am

  2. November 15, 2011, 10:45 am

    What an amazing group of people! So honored to have you all serve our country!!!

    By: EEEmily Wolfe
  3. November 21, 2011, 11:02 pm

    Why atheist are so intolerant and tyrannic in America? This soldiers are honoring as they feel better want their lost fellows and they deserve to be respected! This people are heroes!!!

    By: Anamah
  4. December 11, 2011, 2:01 am

    We are looking at America's best, but in some odd way, the Marines would not be the Marines if it wasn't risky.
    Part of the bond, part of achieving that mantel, in making them who they are, is putting it all on the line for their brothers and the corps. It's not Iraq nor Afghanistan, it's the Marines.

    By: Frank
  5. January 3, 2012, 8:10 am

    Why would anyone be opposed to Marines honoring their fallen. The individuals died for all of us even those who oppose God and Country. I hope that someone will wake up and do what is right. The next thing these individuals will want is for the grave (crosses) in our national cemeteries removed.

    Wayne, MSGT, USAF Retired (1974)

    By: wtc@verizon.net
  6. January 9, 2012, 3:29 am

    My problem with this is that there is four or five marines in civilian clothes doing this like it’s a secret… Come effin ups get a clue

    By: Brandon delles
  7. April 12, 2012, 10:40 am

    THE GOD OF THIS WORLD HAS BEEN TRYING TO TAKE DOWN THE CROSS SINCE DAY ONE. WE AS A COUNTRY HAVE BEEN HELPING HIM MORE EVERYDAY. IF WE DONT TAKE A STAND HE WILL COUNTINE TO KEEP TAKING THEM DOWN. I DONT KNOW IF THESE MARINES WERE CHRISTIANS THAT ERECTED THIS CROSS,BUT EVER TIME ONE IS PUT UP IT MAKES PEOPLE THINK OF THE CROSS OF CALVARY.THATS WHY THE DEVIL WANTS THEM TAKEN DOWN.KEEP TAKING EVERYTHING DOWN THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT ON.

    By: JAMEYHOWELL@LIVE.COM
  8. June 7, 2012, 11:05 am

    All veterans, two widows and two sons of those Killed in action. No one was on active duty – civilian cloths are what veterans and civilians wear.

    By: eyewitness
  9. June 27, 2014, 5:07 pm

    Mr. Delles,
    It is impossible to perform this act in secret, it's on Marine Base, Camp Pendleton.
    I just completed the climb myself wearing GRANDMOTHER clothing in March to honor my fallen Grandson. He died to preserve our freedom's including your freedom to speak your mind however informed or ignorant. Semper Fi! Thank you, Marines!

    By: Poopsty@q.com

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