Ray Humphrey, commander of American Legion Post 30 in Albany, right, and Deanna Nicholson place a wreath before the World War II veterans memorial stone in Veterans Park downtown Monday. The monument and two others in the park were vandalized with black spray paint Saturday and residual “smudges” are visible after initial cleanup. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — A contingent of veterans and supporters from the American Legion Post 30 in Albany paid respects to fallen service men and women Monday.
The day began with an early morning service at the Legion post at 2916 Gillionville Road, where the American flag was ceremoniously raised, then lowered to half -mast. Following that service, Commemorative wreaths were placed at the Spanish-American War memorial near Riverside Cemetery, the Vietnam and World War II memorials at Veterans Park downtown, the Eternal Flame memorial at the county courthouse, and the downtown memorial park in Leesburg.
Veterans expressed disappointment and disgust concerning vandalism at Albany’s Veterans Park which occurred sometime this weekend. Black paint was sprayed over the Vietnam and World War II granite monuments, as well as the smaller monument to Spec. 4 James Worthy, the only Albany serviceman to die in the first Gulf War.
“We were kind of blindsided on this one.” said Ray Humphrey, commander of the American Legion post 30, “ Well, this monument is the greatest generation. They’re still standing. They may be a little bruised and battered, but it’s going to come back bigger and better than before.”
Humphrey said the World War II monument, which was dedicated in November, has special significance to him as both his parents were veterans of that war — his father fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in Europe and his mother serving in the Women’s Air Corps.
“They tried to deface (the monument),” Humphrey said, “but it didn’t work. We’ll clean it up and it’ll look just as good as it did to start with.”
Humphrey, 65, is a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam war.
James Calhoun, 70, served 20 years of active service in both the U.S. Navy and Air Force, he said, and wasn’t pleased with the destructive action of people who have no respect — even for themselves.
“I came to show respect for those who have given their lives in defense of the great nation of ours,” Calhoun said. “If (the country) is ever gone there will never be anything like it in the world again. It will be lost, and I will stand against that.”
Calhoun said that when he joined the military he wrote a “blank check” to the American people for an amount “up to and including his own life, if necessary.”
This is the second time in as many years the memorials have been vandalized, Post 30 veterans say, and some of them expressed concern the new Korean War stone, ordered and due for dedication in November, will suffer the same grim fate. The WWII monument cost post members some $22,000, they say, with the a similar price tag for the Korean memorial.
Following the dedications at Veterans Park, the contingent found more evidence of disrespect at the Eternal Flame memorial at the Courthouse downtown. Just previous to the veterans’ arrival someone tossed a “plastic Jesus doll” into the flame.
“There’s no respect in people today,” said George Hagan, 62, a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and Air Force. “I’m sorry, but the reason is their parents have no respect for anything. Every stop we’ve made today has had some sort of damage. Just stupid stuff. Here there was a Jesus doll thrown in the flame and melted, which I got out just before everyone got here.”