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(Opinion) This cross should never be removed

April 26, 2012

When William Jolicoeur went off to war as part of the 306th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division in 1917, he was part of a band of men that was very welcome in France. General John Pershing was glad to have them. Marshal Ferdinand Foch was glad to have them.
You see, they were from Woonsocket and could speak the native tongue, making them even more valuable than the other doughboys who were landing in Europe in droves.
The war Jolicoeur fought would be among the most brutal in history. He would face things soldiers in warfare never had — machine guns, barbed wire, poisonous gas, flamethrowers and airplanes.
Then, in October 1918, the Americans launched a series of bloody frontal assaults that finally broke through the German line and led to Allied victory.
This assault, known as the Meuse-Argonne offensive, is where Private Jolicoeur lost his life on Oct. 3, 1918.
To honor his memory, a memorial site was consecrated in Woonsocket. Place Jolicoeur, as it would come to be called was enshrined by Marshal Foch himself on a visit to Woonsocket on Nov. 13, 1921.
On May 30 1952, it was reconsecrated when Jolicoeur’s name was joined by three Woonsocket brothers, Alexandre, Henri and Louis Gagne, who gave their lives in the second world war. At that time a cross, made by Herbert and Lester Bicknell, was erected at the site.
It is the only monument to his actions that we have. You cannot visit his grave in Woonsocket, because like so many men who went to France in 1917, Private Jolicoeur never returned. If you would like to visit his gravesite, you'll have to catch a flight to France. He's buried just east of the village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, 26 miles northwest of Verdun — under a white cross on American public property.
It may take you a while to find it.
His cross is one of 14, 246 that exist at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery — the largest number of American military dead in Europe. The cemetery is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. And Private Jolicoeur can be found at Plot D Row 20 Grave 18.
You see, those crosses were not erected to respect an establishment of religion, nor were they erected to foist Christian beliefs on anybody. They were erected simply to honor the beliefs of those men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country — indeed, for all mankind.
After the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, General Pershing said, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”
That's why the cross in Woonsocket should not be torn down — or even moved. Private Jolicoeur was an innocent young man who went off to face the ultimate atrocity. To remove the one memory of his deed would be the ultimate vulgarity.
For if we do that, we might as well remove all the crosses at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery as well. We might as well pave over the crosses at Flanders Field and build a parking lot. We might as well mow down all the graves at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, the Somme Cemetery or the St. Mihiel Cemetery.
We might as well stop worrying about the 30, 921 American soldiers of World War I who are buried in Europe.
We might as well forget that they ever did anything at all.

Daniel H. Trafford is the executive editor of The Woonsocket Call.


"The Atheist???"

May 2, 2012 by KET (not verified), 3 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1238

Please, IF ATHEIST OR ANYONE ELSE DOES NOT LIKE THE CROSS THEN DONT LOOK AT IT, OR GET THE HELL OUT OF THE STATE, ITS THAT SIMPLE! What a damn joke, I'm so sick of these pathetic people, ...or groups who make such nonsense OUT OF NOTHING, when there are so many more important issues in the world. I cant believe this is even news. GET A LIFE ...

How can atheists be offended?

April 29, 2012 by philtymps (not verified), 3 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1198

This complaint by the FFRF in regards to the memorial has me puzzled because if they don't believe in any God how can they possibly be offended by any religious symbol regardless of its location? I would not be as nearly perplexed if this complaint was being raised by a Muslim group. To be offended means they must not really be empty of faith, it's just a faith in science or evolution. That being the case, I would simoly argue that they are inserting their faith in a public space which would violate the separation of church and state as well.

To assert you have no faith and therefore insist all symbols of faith be removed from all state locations means we would be adding by subtracting. We would be adding an atheist symbol over a catholic symbol, in essence favoring one belief over another. To put a scientific spin on this concept, the void that would now occupy the molecules once occupied by the cross would be no less substantial than the molecules occupied by the cross itself. The space now becomes a monument to atheisim as sure as it was a monument to the heroes for whom the monument was established. That result would violate the very basis of their complaint which is separation of church and state, we would simply be replacing one church ( the void church ) for another ( the church which is not void ).

That's how I would argue this in court, and the Mayor's legal counsel is free to take this argument as their own, as I'd be happy to donate it to them. If it's money the town needs to fight it, I would like to join the other supporters of the memorial and make a donation for that too. Just tell me where to send my check.

Waiting for the Mayor to respond

April 28, 2012 by Friendly Neighbor (not verified), 3 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1191

I sent an email to the mayor yesterday asking my question posted below. I am waiting for his response. I would be happy to spearhead a campaign to save the memorial, but I need to make sure that the city would support selling just that island. If he responds to me and it is an option I will reach out to the Call and the Valley Breeze to send word out so I can get assistance. I am trying...just waiting on the mayor and legally I am not sure if it can be done, but I won't give up. If it is an option, I will also look into restoring the monument a little. It needs some TLC. This group disgusts me and I don't like bullies.

Let me know how I can help. I will be at the rally on Wednesday

April 29, 2012 by philtymps (not verified), 3 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1199

Keep me posted on what it is I can do to help.


April 27, 2012 by dmarie218 (not verified), 3 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1180

I was thinking the same thing as the other person...Could the city possibly sell a portion of the land to a private or a group of private citizens in order to thwart the efforts of the FFRF..something that should be considered..

Woonsocket Cross Issue

April 27, 2012 by Macclan1972 (not verified), 3 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1179

The comparisons to knocking down crosses in cemeteries is unfounded because as it has been stated, the location in question is not a cemetery but city land. The memorial was put there at a time when either the people in city government were of the same religion or the people living in the area were of the same religion, not minding that it was indeed wrong to put it there. It is a nice thought to honor people however it is simply the wrong location. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a non profit group responding to a request for assistance by a resident of the city. I completely support the action taken by the FFRF. One of the suggestions on this page was for the city to sell the land the memorial is on making it private property. This has worked in many cities for similar issues.

The Memorial Cross

April 27, 2012 by 68 Yr Native (not verified), 3 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1178

I feel violated by an organization that never heard of Woonsocket and could never find it without GPS.
Understand that FFR is not bothered by an aged cement cross that is deteriorating and may fall apart before this issue is over. No, they are after Woonsocket's Spirit, our beliefs, and memories of good people who gave their lives defending this country at war.
All they seem to want is to take the goodness out of this memorial, and leave it as bland and tasteless as they are.
The cross should not be moved, but that's not because there aren't many areas where it would more visible...for instance, on Queen of Martyrs land at Park Square, facing rt 146 where thousands would pass by it daily.
But certainly think about FFR's local member who put these dogs on this trail. What would your life have to be like to turn to them for comfort?

A Possible Option?

April 26, 2012 by Friendly Neighbor (not verified), 3 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1176

First, I would like to commend Daniel Trafford for an extremely well written article. Second, I was wondering if the zoning board can grant a variance for the tiny piece of land, sell it to a private citizen or citizen's group (that can pay the nominal fee, and the negligible annual taxes), then the "cross" is on private property. The city can then tell the Freedom From Religion group in Wisconsin to pound sand.

cross should not be removed

April 26, 2012 by timdiana (not verified), 3 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1175

I am appalled at the news of this cross to be removed because of this freedom of religion group. I am a new Catholic christian for 2 years and I am very upset with these latest announcements about this cross to be taken away. First it was the prayer in the Cranston school and now this. Soon they will be trying to take the crosses out of all the cemetaries around the country and Arlington in Viginia. I fully support that the monument stay as is. I am so sick of the ACLU and this freedom of religion group. Whatever happened to the freedom of true religion in this country. Us christians who believe in God should have a say of keeping crosses in public places. I think that all the people who do not believe in God and Jesus Christ should be thankful they are on this earth because God is the one who created this earth and brought these children into the world. Their parents should really teach them about God and the wonderful world of christianity. I hope this helps to keep the cross in front of the fire station.

Timothy R. Breidegam

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