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A cross to bear

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By Walt Reichert

When Rod Purves retired from the Navy after 22 years of service, he decided to take up his cross - literally.

The California man left Newport Beach, Calif. Sept. 14 of last year bound for Washington, D. C. where he will take part in a pro-life rally on Aug. 16. Purves is carrying to the rally crosses he has made along the way, crosses covered with thousands of supporters' signatures he has gathered on his route.

The journey brought him to Shelbyville last week. With the help of the youth group from the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, Purves built his seventh cross on Sunday.

"Basically, when I get the crosses filled with signatures, we make a new one," Purves said.

Purves came to Shelbyville because Annunciation youth minister Liz Barker told him the youth group would be interested in building a cross here after he had contacted the Archdiocese of Louisville and told them of his plans to come through the area.

"The teen-agers wanted to help him," Barker said. "They volunteered at the last meeting."

Purves arrived here May 28 and plans to stay in the Louisville-Bardstown area for part of this week. Members of the church have taken him in and donated to his cause, Barker said, including buying the wood to build his seventh cross.

"He's become part of the community," Barker said.

Before he and the youth started building the cross, Purves explained why he has spent nearly a year of his life crossing the country protesting abortion and witnessing for a pro-Christian belief.

"I didn't fight for this country so we can murder babies," Purves said. "I also do this to remind people that this nation has always been Christian, and there's no reason to turn away from what's good."

Purves set out from California on foot, sleeping in tents, until a supporter donated an RV. He straps the crosses to a trailer pulled behind the RV. Purves said he has had a couple of run ins with those who resent his position. One of his crosses was partially burned by a group he called "hippies."

He plans to erect the crosses on the mall in Washington as an expected large crowd gathers to pray to end abortion. Purves said it is fitting that youth groups help with the construction of the crosses he will take to D. C.

"I am doing this for our youth," Purves said. "What kind of nation are we leaving them? If we stay on the same path there won't be much left for them. I saw people in Bosnia and Darfur getting shot at for what we take for granted here."