FALL RIVER, Mass (WPRI) – Community members stepped up this week to replace some priceless items stolen from a veterans’ memorial.
The Iwo Jima Memorial in Fall River’s Bicentennial Park has an unfortunate history of vandalism. Most recently, someone stole a Purple Heart and a vile of sand from the site.
Back in 2014, someone stole a rare, 48-star American flag.
Eyewitness News aired stories about the vandalism, and members of the community have since stepped forward to donate their personal items to the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Maggie Rogers of Lincoln donated a 48-star flag she had in her attic to replace the one stolen two years ago.
Frank Andrade of Fall River also came up with a big donation. He served seven and a half years in the Marine Corps and runs a youth program that had a Purple Heart on display.
“I was lucky enough to be one of the marines that visited the island in 2003 and I took some sand with me so I had some to spare,” he said. “And I thought, ‘what better way to donate a little bit of it and give back to those that served on the island?'”
With the new donations, Bruce Aldrich, the Commandant of the Marine Corps League, is ready to put the missing pieces back into the memorial.
“I’m dropping it off at the glass company tomorrow to have a new top put on it and he [man at the glass company] says he has a thicker piece of Plexiglas that he’s going to put on it to make it harder to smash. So hopefully that’ll take care of it,” said Aldrich.
“Nobody wants to see these things happen, but it makes you wonder, ‘are these things meant to happen just to see the community stand up and show that they care?’” added Aldrich. “Sometimes members forget there are people out there that care for the veterans and appreciate what they do.”
Both Aldrich and Andrade said they will be checking on the Iwo Jima Memorial more often.
Aldrich also said that police are looking at surveillance video from around that memorial to try to catch the suspects who committed this unthinkable act.