Flags damaged at Wellsville’s memorial to veterans

WELLSVILLE – Though not as serious as the cemetery vandalism that outraged the community one year ago, another instance of desecration once again has Wellsville residents angry at random destruction.

Earlier this week, flags planted along the Wellsville Veterans Memorial Park on Riverside Avenue behind the Fourth Street gazebo were found to have been vandalized. Some were merely pulled out of the flag markers and thrown on the ground, while others appeared to have been pulled out of markers, their shaft snapped in half below the flag. The resulting snapped-off rods of wood were put back into the holders, with the portion holding the flag itself dropped on the ground.

There were also some whose rods had been snapped at the point of the fabric itself so that the top portion holding the flag dangled limply at the shaft upside-down.

“They’re defacing and showing no respect for veterans, the ones who gave their lives for Wellsville,” Councilman Don Brown, who heads the Wellsville Veterans Memorial Council, said. He hopes that getting the story out leads to information that results in an arrest, though he admits it’s no easy task to find such individuals, since the few witnesses were likely with the perpetrators.

The park has been the property of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5647 since the 1960s. It was rededicated in 1976 by the Veterans Memorial Council, whose members tend to the site, ensuring the flag markers and flags are there year-round.

The organization sponsors Memorial Day activities each year at the site. According to Brown, they spend $2,000 on flags for the site, as well as for veterans’ graves at the cemetery, parades, for display outside village hall and those donated to the schools.

Joyce Wetzel, who walks regularly in the area, said she noticed the damaged and uprooted flags at the park late last week. She’s never seen such damage there before and said she can’t imagine who would do such a thing.

“I just think it’s a shame because it’s such a beautiful place,” she said.

Brown identified it as part of a disturbing trend that includes acts of destruction as significant as the widespread vandalism that struck Springhill Cemetery in December 2012 and as random as vehicle tires slashed outside residents’ homes in the village. He says he couldn’t imagine such things happening in his younger days.

“We were taught you do not destroy people’s property or deface our flag or show disrespect,” Brown said.