For over 20 years, the American Legion has been placing flags on the gravesites of military personnel.
To the members of the American Legion, the act was their way of showing their respect and support to deceased military members. However, to their dismay one year later while putting out more American flags the grave markers at one Smyrna cemetery were gone.
Bill Keplinger, the commander of the Sons of the American Legion, noticed the grave markers at the cemetery on East North Street were gone just a few weeks ago.
“I came out here the Saturday before Memorial Day to put flags out here and noticed the grave markers were gone,” Keplinger said.
The disappointment of the stolen grave markers is two-fold: not only is it disrespectful, but the grave markers weren’t cheap.
Faron W. Marshall Sr., Clubroom manager and Veterans Relief Committee member, said they spent over $2,200 on flags and grave markers last year. Approximately 60 grave markers were stolen from this particular cemetery. That’s $600 in stolen property from the cemetery. Why do the grave markers cost so much? They’re made of zinc alloy and aluminum shafts.
It doesn’t appear the grave markers were stolen from the other cemeteries in town.
Marshall said they didn’t file a police report because they have no way of knowing when in the past year the grave markers were stolen. But Marshall, Keplinger and Post Commander Mike Havel believe they know of a possible motive: to make a profit.
“We assume markers were taken for scrap value of the metals they were made of,” Marshall said.
For all three men, the idea of someone stealing the markers is disheartening.
“Our issue is that it’s disrespectful,” Havel said. “These people paid the ultimate sacrifice to serve our country and we are just trying to honor them.”
Keplinger added that some of the veterans fought in the Korean War, World War II, World War I, and even earlier wars.
New grave markers have been ordered, but this time they will be plastic. They’ll probably be put out around July 4.
“We just want to get the word out. Maybe at least people will keep an eye out and be aware of it,” Marshall said.
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