Henry and Wanda Sandoz of Yucca Valley got a standing ovation Saturday afternoon at the American Legion Department of California’s 95th annual convention in Palm Springs. The couple was acknowledged for keeping a war memorial cross in the Mojave Desert. The battle between the couple and the American Civil Liberties Union made national headlines, culminating in an April 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the cross could not be removed. Henry Sandoz, 74, had promised a dying World War I veteran he would take care of the memorial. Veterans put up the wooden cross on Sunrise Rock in 1934. It was later replaced with one made of steel pipes. Sunrise Rock became part of the Mojave National Preserve in 1994, putting the cross on public land. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2001 saying the cross was unconstitutional on government property because of the separation of church and state, and federal courts ordered it removed. Henry Sandoz and his wife Wanda ultimately traded five acres of their land for the acre occupied by Sunrise Rock. It was turned over to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Barstow and the Veterans Home of California-Barstow.

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