ORONOCO, Minn. – Call it an act of “dishonor”, nearly three dozen star markers, meant to honor local veterans are missing from a southern Minnesota cemetery.
“We found them next to the trees in piles,” explains John William Tilford, President of the Cemetery Association for the Oronoco Cemetery.
Tilford noticed something strange while preparing the cemetery for Memorial Day; brass veterans’ stars were removed from grave sites and carelessly tossed into the trees.
“What they’re doing is their coming into the cemetery and they’re stealing from the veterans, they’re taking, these are pushed down. We push these down into the ground to try and protect them but they’re stealing these rods right here.”
Tilford says most of the thefts are happening in areas that are secluded and blocked off by lines of trees.
“I suppose they came in the evening, felt safest back here,” Tilford explains.
So he made a theft complaint to the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office. When authorities arrived they learned 35 brass stars were missing.
“We are working on the investigation; we have developed some information that may lead us to a suspect,” explains Capt. Scott Behrns with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office.
As of now law enforcement can’t tell us how much these markers are worth, but Capt. Behrns says the price of the pieces pales in comparison to what the symbols mean.
“For the person or group of people, whoever did this, to do this, they need to take a look in the mirror and think about what kind of person they are. Obviously a thief, but the second is, their very sacrilegious in stealing from people that have served this country,” adds Behrns.
Tilford calls the acts disrespectful and says they’re not just stealing from veterans but from their families who come here to remember those who have served our country.
“The families they don’t have a lot, for a loved one that might have lost their life in the wary, they don’t have a lot left all they have is this memorial and to steal from it is just, it’s a terrible thing.”
The stars are from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. They’re meant to honor veterans buried in the state. Tilford says he hopes to find and replace all the stars before Memorial Day.