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Settlement clears way for cross in Mojave Desert

LOS ANGELES - A veterans group can restore a memorial cross in the Mojave Desert under a court settlement that ends a decade-old legal battle, the National Park Service said Tuesday.

A federal judge approved the lawsuit settlement on Monday, permitting the park service to turn over a remote hilltop area known as Sunrise Rock to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Barstow and the Veterans Home of California-Barstow.

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The park will give up the acre of land in exchange for 5 acres of donated property elsewhere in the 1.6-million-acre preserve in Southern California.

The swap, which could be completed by the end of the year, will permit veterans to restore a cross to the site and end a controversy that became tangled in the thorny issues of patriotism and religion and made its way to the US Supreme Court in 2003.

The last cross was ordered removed by the park service in 2010 because of a court order.

The donated land is owned by Henry and Wanda Sandoz of Yucca Valley.

Henry Sandoz, 72, who has cared for crosses at the site for years, has a 7-foot replacement ready to go, said his wife.

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