SAN DIEGO -
Locals pitched in to help ship a memorial cross honoring a fallen Marine to Texas.
An 11-foot cross constructed by Marines to honor Lance Cpl. Benjamin Schmidt was intended to be placed on top of a mountain at Camp Pendleton, but a moratorium on religious symbols at Pendleton meant the cross had to go somewhere else.
It tells the story of 24-year-old Schmidt, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in October 2011.
The incident was devastating to his platoon. To honor their friend and work through their grief, they constructed the 11-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide cross. They painted Schmidt's platoon designation on it, along with the kind of rifle that Schmidt – who was a sniper – used. And of course, they painted his name on it in capital letters.
The Marines were very upset when they learned the cross could not go on Camp Pendleton.
"Never met the individual Marine, but my heart goes out to the family and friends, especially the Marines that took the time to erect the cross," said retired Marine Richard Perron as his voice filled with emotion.
Schmidt's Marine buddies decided that since Camp Pendleton was out, the cross should go to the Schmidt family's ranch outside of San Antonio, his boyhood home.
When Perron's wife Sandy – who is the area manager for UPS stores in San Diego County – found out about this, she wanted to help.
UPS store owners in San Diego and in San Antonio pitched in to cover the shipping costs. Thursday was packing day at the UPS store in Clairemont.
"When Sandy brought it to me, she basically told me the story behind it and it was touching," said El Zaldivar, the manager at the Clairemont store.
Beejan Hamraz, who works in freight services at the store, told 10News,"It felt like I'm happy to be doing something like this… being a part of something like this."
Both men had to make the box that would carry the cross from scratch. It was a meticulous process that took more than three hours.
When Perron saw the unit designation "2/4" on the cross, he knew he was meant to be involved with the cross shipping project. As it turns out, he served in the same unit as Schmidt.
"It would seem common to most people, very simplistic, but knowing Marines put it together... means a lot," Perron said.
The cross will be picked up on Friday and then make its way by ground to Texas. It will arrive next Thursday in time for a weekend service to honor the one-year anniversary of Schmidt's death.