Disrespect: Flag holders stolen from graves of fallen veterans at cemetery

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The lack of respect for our veterans was on full display in La Porte, Indiana this week.  That’s where police say about 40 veteran flag holders were stolen from graves at a cemetery.

The president of the Cemetery Board, Scott Harris, let police know they had been swiped sometime between last Friday and Monday.  He said they’re valued at about $40 each.

“Veteran grave markers have been stolen from area cemeteries in the past. According to previous reports, about 50 grave markers were stolen from the Patton Cemetery in 2015 and about a dozen bronze markers were stolen from Rolling Prairie Cemetery in 2012,” the La Porte County Herald-Argus noted.

They aren’t just random flag holders.  Each was unique to a veteran’s grave.  They were purchased by members of that veteran’s family, and each represented the different kinds of service.

“We just want to try and get these items back for the families, because like I said, you can’t get more disrespectful than actually taking from a grave site from someone that served our country,” said Captain Bill Degnegaard of the La Porte City Police Department.

He said it’s about more than just justice.

“And this is something the families like to do to honor our veterans, and we would like to get those items back for them,” he concluded.

In a further move of disrespect, many of the flags that were in the holders were strewn about the ground.

 
Disrespect: Flag holders stolen from graves of fallen veterans at cemetery
Disrespect: Flag holders stolen from graves of fallen veterans at cemetery

Lisa Peurzakowski is the Vice President of the Patton Cemetery Board and Center Township Trustee.

She told local media outlets the incident has saddened her.

“This is sad because these men and women went to war for us so that we could have the freedom that we have now,” she commented. “And for somebody to come and take those emblems that were there, put there by the different organizations, steal them and probably scrap them for money, we have no idea, but it’s really sad that it’s come down to where they have to start doing stuff like that.”

The La Porte Police Department took to Facebook to ask anyone with information about the flag holders to contact the department at 219-362-9446.

It’s not the first time Patton Cemetery has had trouble keeping criminals off the property at night, according to Peurzakowski.

She said someone had dumped trash there before.

“It looks like we’re going to have to work on something else. We don’t have any electricity out here, but there’s got to be a way of maybe putting cameras somehow,” she commented.

Peurzakowski said the theft will probably be discussed at an upcoming board meeting.

In the meantime, police are still looking for the “ruthless” man who attacked a 91-year-old California widower visiting his wife’s grave last month.

A sketch of the suspect by Santa Clara police
A sketch of the suspect by Santa Clara police

It happened at around 10:45 a.m. on September 14 in Santa Clara, California. 

Police say the unnamed victim was sitting on a law chair at his wife’s burial site when he was attacked from behind with a rock.  He was then robbed.

Police are describing the attacker as possibly a Latino or Hispanic man between the ages of 35 and 50 with slicked-back, long, gray hair.

They say that after robbing the victim, then escaped on a mountain bike.

“This is a completely and utterly unprovoked and ruthless assault on one of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Santa Clara Police Capt. Wahid Kazem.

Police rushed the victim to the hospital and say he’s now recovering at home.

Denise Martin is a cyclist who frequently goes by the Mission City Memorial Park cemetery. Martin described the man to local media outlets as “a lovely gentleman who stays here for an hour or two visiting her” nearly every day.

The attacker, when found, faces charges of felony assault, elderly abuse and robbery.

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On a more positive note, over the summer, Law Enforcement Today ran an article regarding the meltdown of some people who demanded that the word ‘Lord’ be removed from a police memorial…. that ultimately resulted in the memorial being removed altogether.

Within days… after massive public backlash… that memorial has been restored to its original place – in its original condition.

“After careful consideration and much conversation with people on both sides of the discussion, City Council has made the decision that the Police Officer’s Prayer will be restored to its original condition and returned to the Fallen Officers’ Memorial located at the new police station. We want to thank everyone for voicing your opinion, as it’s not always easy to do so on such a sensitive subject,” said a post by the City of Tega Cay, South Carolina in a Facebook post.

 

After literally scrubbing references to the “Lord”from a memorial honoring fallen police officers, the South Carolina city had removed the monument outright.

According to Fox News, the Tega Cay City Council announced the decision to take down the memorial in a Facebook post which has since been removed.  The references, which are part of a police officer’s prayer and was in front of the police department, were covered up after some residents complained. But that decision also drew outrage.

City officials said they decided to remove the monument temporarily while they seek a solution that “expresses our unwavering support and gratitude to those who risk their lives every day for ours.”

“We attempted to find a compromise but failed as our community has further divided,” city officials went on to say. “In an attempt to find a resolution, we have upset parties on both sides of this issue and for that we are truly sorry.”

Now they say they never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings.

“As Mr. Dunn stated before Council July 15th, none of what has transpired was an attack on our Police Department or anyone’s faith. Our City Council and citizens have always been strong supporters of the men and women in blue. We’d like to thank Mr. Dunn and the others who spoke before Council. The respectful exchange of ideas and opinions is truly what makes local government extraordinary,” the post said.

They’re now asking people to help the city move on.

“This was a tough week in Tega Cay. It is our hope that we can now move forward together and continue to be the strong, welcoming community that we have always been known for. Regardless of our different viewpoints, our people are what truly makes this City such a wonderful place,” the post said.

The city’s attorney said that while it is like other monuments around the country, this one doesn’t have any historical significance. That is why they decided to first edit it, then eventually remove it altogether.  This could be based on part of the Supreme Court decision referenced below.

Hiram Sasser, general counsel to First Liberty Institute, called it “utter nonsense.”

“We won the case at the Supreme Court just last month, The American Legion v. American Humanist Association,” Sasser told Fox News in an interview, referencing the 7-2 decision that allowed the Bladensburg Peace Cross war memorial to stand on public land.

“The country is now free from the memorial scrubbers,” Sasser noted.

In that decision, the Supreme Court noted that while the cross has its roots in Christianity, it currently appears in contexts that are “indisputably secular,” such as trademarks for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayer Group, and certain products from Johnson & Johnson.

The Court also made a distinction between keeping established monuments with religious symbols, like the Peace Cross, and erecting new ones, stating:

“Familiarity itself can become a reason for preservation,” and, “The passage of time gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality.”

Even the plaintiff in this case, the AHA, recognized that cross memorials may be permissible in some cases, like certain World War I Latin crosses in Arlington National Cemetery. While AHA claimed that those crosses are different because they are in a cemetery and are more associated with individual soldiers, the Court said that does not make a difference, as memorials serve the same purpose as gravestones for many grieving families.

Ultimately, the Court determined that despite the religious significance of crosses in general, this particular memorial does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, even though public funds are used for its upkeep.

The rest of the statements from the city and some of its residents can be seen in the original article below. 

Apparently, the word “Lord” is the latest thing to trigger people into a magnificently offended meltdown, after it was scene on a memorial for fallen officers.

Prayer. A petition or solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. But it isn’t prayer in general that is the source of debate in a South Carolina town, it is very specific. And according to city leadership, it should be a generic conversation with anyone other than God or an object of worship.

A memorial to fallen officers has a request etched in stone. It is a request asking for courage, strength and dedication. Unfortunately, it is a request addressed to no one. The memorial sits outside the new police station in Tega Cay. The stone was recently edited, leaving out the word “Lord”.

So, a memorial that was purchased and provided by a women’s group has apparently ruffled feathers.

“These people, you know, they put their lives on the line every day for the safety of the community and that’s what we hope people get out of it,” said Tega Cay City Manager Charlie Funderburk.

“Yeah I thought someone who was upset about it just crossed it off,” said resident, Lauren Albano.

People were upset, but they weren’t ones who covered up the word “Lord”, which appears three different times. Instead, it was Tega Cay city leaders.

“A little surprised, but as the complaints came in the end result was pretty clear,” said Funderburk.

Funderburk says complaints were received almost immediately after the memorial went up. City leaders met with the the city attorney, and subsequently, they decided to get rid of the invocation of God’s name.

“There was never any intent to hold one religion in higher regard to another, or one person in higher regard than another. It was a donation from a civic group,” said Funderburk.

The city originally painted over the black letters with paint that matched the color of the stone.

“I mean it was a beautiful monument with a beautiful little prayer on it. I would have left it as is,” said one resident.

“There is just as many people upset now that it got removed over people upset it was there in the first place. There is no win here at all,” said Funderburk.

Funderburk also said that the statement on the back is the same seen on fallen officer memorials throughout the country, including in Washington D.C. He said that no historical significance, the city decided to make the change.

Apparently painting over the three locations to match in color, was not good enough. The city doubled down by then filling in the lettering with a plaster that, when dried, matches the coloring of the stone.  

What does it all boil down to? Why did they city decided that a prayer offered up in support of fallen heroes?

FEAR.

“Any family members, friends and colleagues are not going to like what I have to say this evening,” said resident, Dann Dunn, during a July 15 Tega Cay city council meeting.

Dunn told city council members he supports the memorial, he supports police officers, and he even believes in the God, but he doesn’t believe God and government should go hand in hand.

“The Tega Cay Police Station is not the place for a religious memento,” said Dunn.

Dunn says his greatest concern was the use of the word Lord could open up the city to a lawsuit, which in turn could waste tax dollars.

Groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation scour the country to find instances like this, sending out a letter demanding the removal of the said signage or memorials, and threatening a lawsuit if city officials refuse to do so.

Our nation’s currency contains the phrase “In God We Trust.”

The FFR never successfully threatened or sued the US government. They are, however, willing to attack smaller towns and cities, knowing that the city will typically opt to remove the ‘offending’ object rather than face the potential of a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

Dirty political posturing is dictating what can and cannot be said on a memorial that was not purchased or commissioned by the city. It was 100% financed by this women’s group. It was intended to be a reminder to praying people to lift up those who have fallen in the line of duty as well as those who run the risk of doing so.

Let me tell you something. You don’t have to believe in God. You don’t have to pray. I support your rights to do so. But what you do need to do is respect other’s right to do both these things.

This is not about separation of church and state. This is absolutely an effort to squelch the very reference of God from the public space.

If we spent less time removing His name and more time talking to Him, this nation might just be even stronger and that much more amazing of a place.

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