Brass Stolen From Graves Of Warren Veterans
By Brian Ferry, email@example.com
9/9/2007 - WARREN, PA — Ed Burris was angry and dismayed when he heard 85 bronze markers had been stolen from veterans’ graves over the Labor Day weekend.
The news got worse Wednesday.‘‘Eighty-eight more markers were stolen from Sheffield Cemetery,’’
said Burris, Warren County veterans affairs director. ‘‘I got that phone call this morning and I couldn’t believe it.’’
In his 30 years as grounds superintendent at Sheffield Cemetery, Dennis Sturdevant said he has seen nothing that compares to this theft.
‘‘We’ve seen vandalism, a little disrespect, but nothing like this,’’ he said. ‘‘I just don’t understand why people would do this. I’ve learned to appreciate what the veterans have done for this country. I think if they catch them, they should see some jail time and pay restitution.’’
Like the markers in Oakland Cemetery, the markers were stolen over the weekend, but it’s hard to say exactly when, Burris said. Sturdevant said the markers were all taken from the 600 graves in Section Eight of the cemetery. Unlike Oakland, there is no special veterans section of Sheffield Cemetery. Nothing was taken from adjoining St. Michael Cemetery, Sturdevant said.
The veterans affairs office called local cemeteries Wednesday, but didn’t hear of any other thefts. Sturdevant said he has passed the word to cemeteries in neighboring counties to warn them of the rash of thefts. A pattern emerged at Oakland and Sheffield cemeteries, leading Burris to suspect the same criminals hit both locations.
‘‘I think it’s the same people because they’re putting the flags back in the ground,’’ he said.
Each marker sits atop a short bronze post. Attached at the top is an American Flag on a wooden pole. The flags were not taken. All of the flags in Sheffield and all but five in Oakland were stuck into the ground where the bronze markers had been.
Burris said the thieves were probably either trying to avoid detection for as long as possible or trying to get out of separate criminal charges that stem from the destruction and desecration of the flag. The flags that were found on the ground will be destroyed in a proper retirement ceremony.
‘‘The American Flag has never laid on the ground,’’ Burris said.
Police believe the high price of scrap metal is driving thefts. In addition to grave markers, Warren Police investigated the Aug. 21 theft of more than 3,000 feet of copper wire from Penelec.
‘‘Thieves continue to use the high value of these metals as their motivation to steal from our local businesses and from the grave sites of our heroic veterans,’’ a news release from Warren County Crime Stoppers said.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for anyone who gives information that results in the prosecution of those responsible. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-83-CRIME.
Burris has taken several calls from veterans and businesses interested in contributing to a separate reward.
‘‘I’m really hoping that we can get about $1,000 in reward money,’’ he said.
More than 30 of the Oakland Cemetery markers were recovered after Grounds Superintendent James McDunn found a neat pile of markers in the woods near the veterans’ section of the cemetery. The replacement cost of 130 bronze markers is about $3,000, Burris said, though he said the cemetary will not buy any more bronze.
He said the county has to provide markers made of a weather-resistant alloy. Both bronze and aluminum fit the requirement and the aluminum markers cost as little as one-fourth as much as bronze.
‘‘The aluminum (markers) really look nice and don’t seem to be targeted as highly,’’ Burris said. ‘‘At the rate (the bronze markers) are being stolen’’ it makes sense to replace them with aluminum.’’http://post-journal.com/articles.asp?articleID=19392