KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Following the lead of Jim Presley, many people in Knoxville are putting crosses in their front yards and even local businesses are voicing their opinion too, as the community is rallying together to show support for a Veterans Memorial at Youngs Park that has sparked controversy.
The Washington D.C. based organization “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” sent a letter to Knoxville City Leaders asking them to take the memorial down after a local anonymous resident complained about it, saying they were offended by it.
In response, the community of Knoxville has come together to show support of the monument by displaying crosses all over town. City Hall says it has been overwhelmed with phone calls by people voicing support for the monument.
Vietnam Veteran Al Larsen is a Purple Heart recipient who created the memorial in honor of his friend, and placed it next to the American flag at Youngs Park in Knoxville. Larsen explained to Channel 13 News, “to me, that`s me, a cross is my best friend that got killed in Vietnam. He got killed November 17th, November 18th, I got shot. He was in the same outfit I was in. He was from my hometown.”
Larsen doesn’t understand all the controversy the memorial has created, and he doesn’t know why anyone would be offended by it, telling Channel 13 News, “19 years old, (he) never got to saw his baby, you know, so I think a lot of people should just sit down and think. Are we fighting over a cross with a soldier kneeling? They should sit down and just think.”
Victoria Reed is the Owner of “Reed’s Kone Korner,” an ice cream shop in town. Reed has lived in Knoxville for over 30 years and has owned the ice cream store business for 16 years with her husband. Reed told Channel 13 News that she believes it’s everyone’s right to be offended by anything that they want to be offended by but as it pertains to this particular situation, she added, “I don’t feel like the cross at that particular memorial represents a particular religion. It is a memorial to our fallen soldiers.”
Drew Raleigh is a Youth Pastor that lives in Knoxville, but he says that’s not the reason he has a cross displayed in his front lawn, telling Channel 13 News, “I’m a believer in Christ you know and I stand for the cross as far as what it means, but that’s not the reason why I put the cross up, because the cross in this instance means more about a soldier paying tribute to a fallen soldier, just like at Arlington; all the white crosses.”
Even t-shirts are being made in support of the cause, with Arthur McCarthy telling Channel 13 News, “We ended up making 121 shirts which have now sold. We’ve put in a second order of 150 shirts that is hitting the prints tomorrow because the demand is so high.”
Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch says city leaders are gathering information and consulting with the City Attorney to decide what to do. City leaders will discuss the matter at a city council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 6:15 p.m.. Supporters of the memorial have scheduled a rally for this Sunday from 12-2 p.m. at Youngs Park.