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Kenai to take public comment on veteran's memorial

Posted: March 18, 2014 - 11:06pm  |  Updated: March 21, 2014 - 8:19am

After nearly a year of debate about the design of a monument in Leif Hanson Memorial Park, the Kenai City Council will hear from the public for the first time during tonight’s meeting.

One month after the park memorial was installed last summer, creator Scott Hammond received word that some city council members had raised concerns to administration about a cross displayed on the statue. The 12-foot monument shows a soldier kneeling in front of a cross with the inscription, “Never Forgotten.”

Kenai resident Bob Myles, a member of the National Veterans of Foreign Wars Committee, will give a 10-minute presentation to the city council addressing the complaints from his perspective. Myles, who served six years in the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam, said he expects to see a large turnout of veterans at the meeting.

“The symbol does not represent religion, it is a memorial tomb for a fallen soldier,” he said. “I do not want it changed and I have talked to a number of people who have the same view as me.”

Kenai city council member Terry Bookey said he heard from a couple citizens last summer who were concerned about the statue as a potential liability to the city. Relating to the separation of church and state, Bookey said he was made aware of a similar memorial monument with a cross was proposed in Lake Elsinore Calif. The city was threatened with a lawsuit and eventually prohibited the statue from being built.

Bookey and council member Ryan Marquis brought the concerns from the public to the attention of city administrators and city attorney Scott Bloom. Bookey said he asked if the city would be open to a liability because of the depiction of a cross on the monument.

“As a council we have to look out for city not based on what our personal beliefs are, but for what is best for city as whole,” Bookey said. “Right now the monument is not an agenda item and has not been discussed by council.”

Hammond, owner of Metal Magic, said the council members concern of a religious symbol on city property is hypocritical. The City of Kenai has the Russian Orthodox Church on its seal, he said.

Hammond said the design is in respect to the Vietnam War veterans and the cross is recognized as a memorial tomb for fallen soldiers. When asked by city administration if he would compromise and consider moving the statue to in front of the VFW building, refused because it was built specifically for the memorial park, he said.

Hammond said he has contacted the Organization of American Center for Law and Justice, which deals with the separation of church and state issues. Because the primary effect of the cross is a soldier grave marker, he said they ruled there was nothing unconstitutional and it was acceptable on public property.

Hundreds of thousands of graves are marked with a cross all over the country, he said. Despite the concerns raised from council, he said he hasn’t heard any complaints about his monument.

“Not to be an eccentric artist but I believe it has the right to be there,” he said. “It’s not like I built a 12-foot cross. It is obvious what it is.”

Hammond said he will attend the council meeting but doesn’t plan to speak unless any council members have a question for him. During the whole process, he said he invited the two council members who raised the issue to talk with him but he has not heard from them.

“They would rather have the issue go away, but I refuse,” he said. “If we don’t deal with it now, sooner or later the community will have to make a decision. Let the chips fall where they may I am prepared to fight for it.”

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Raoulduke 03/21/14 - 09:47 pm

The problem -The pretentiousness of the term" Gods True Church". This thinking has been,and continues to be the cause of MANY misfortunes of the human race .Wars,Famine,and even the Holocaust was all religious based.I personally can live the rest of my days without belief,and the reading of a very self contradicting book.There is another question I have.If a god is an infinite being as such.How can a finite being (humans). Have any idea of what a god is thinking,or hear god speaking to them as some people claim? Like I said god is a belief,and a belief only.God is not a fact. The representation of the cross,and cross only displays disrespect to the fallen.Who were not of the Christian belief.Partiality should not have been displayed so publicly.

Localmrs 03/22/14 - 12:19 am
you can have the last words -LM OUT

That's your opinion and we're all well aware of it. I don't expect you to understand where we are coming from because we have opposing world views. I've heard your views before, but I see it differently. None of you who hate crosses showed your faces for public comment at the council meeting. In all honestly, symbols are not necessary to have a relationship with Christ. This physical world will pass away and our spirits will remain. So continue on sir and spew your anti-Christian venom. We will remain faithful and joyful :-)
Have a nice life and God Bless You. I hope you have a change of heart and see God for who he truly is! Amazing!

leewaytooo 03/22/14 - 03:00 am
in the beginning, women

in the beginning, women invented superstitions which, when

men discovered the power of such SUPERSTITIONS, they

(men) took over the practice/power of the superstitions.

that is the origin of religion...................a power play by men.

when the women would not stop with their original practice

of superstitions, the men in the name of their

evolved superstitions........declared the women to be

witches..........and so it continues..........

I suppose that the cross should be on the memorial...

as more people have been murdered in the name of religion

throughout history than anything else..... might as well

have a reminder as to the root cause of the need for the



if you want one symbol then include all religious symbols,,,,,,, otherwise

it is not "we the people.........." be sure to include one for those that

do not could be a circle with a diagonal line through it.....

Raoulduke 03/22/14 - 06:21 am
my last word

Localmrs - I have not spewed any anti Christian venom.I am not anti Christian,Jew,Buddhist,Muslim.People can believe. What they wish to believe.I have a strong sense of separation of church,and state.Which was my point,and over looked by you.Quite like the people .Who have a strong sense of the 2nd Amendment .I do not hate religious symbols.As a matter of fact.I do not hate.Hate is a negative.Hate would consume you.You misunderstand. I do not wish for religion to be forced in my face as this monument does.I do not believe in a god,and that is all.

bluffbunny 03/26/14 - 11:20 pm

It's only a small part of the memorial, I'll bet if this had not been brought up, no one would have even noticed it...
and if there were other religious symbols on the memorial, I'll bet no one would have complained.
The vast majority of military members who profess a belief, ARE why is a cross inappropriate?
I believe most National cemeteries have crosses displayed. Will ALL of those be prosecuted and removed by those who feel offended?


Norseman 03/27/14 - 07:22 am


You need to ask that of the so called religious right.
Lets start with just a few things on the list

Same sex marriages
Government party affilation
Any religions other than one's own, just ask a few muslims or jews

please add to the list....

Raoulduke 03/27/14 - 09:12 am
Your Right

Bluffbunny- Intolerance- Unfortunately! The intolerance came from the sculptor,and the folks that allowed the monument to stay as is. Yes! The majority of military members are Christian.The point that is trying to be made is.NOT ALL MILITARY MEMBERS ARE CHRISTIAN,AND THESE OTHERS THAT ARE OF OTHER FAITH'S.THEIR RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISPLAYED.JUST AS OPENLY AS THE SYMBOL OF THE CHRISTIAN'S .If this would have been done.You would not have heard a peep from me.As is.The monument is displaying partiality.Which to me is violating. The separation of Church,and State.Yes! Crosses are displayed in National Cemeteries. They are on the INDIVIDUAL'S GRAVE SITE.

Suss 06/17/14 - 01:42 pm
Leif Hanson Memorial Park Monument back at City meeting.

The "disposition" of the veteran's monument is scheduled to be brought back up at the City of Kenai Council meeting on the 18th at 7:00 p.m.

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