We were not so much shocked as saddened by the level of disrespect that vandals showed Memorial Day weekend when they used spray paint to deface the downtown Veterans Park monuments to those who died in war.
Frankly, it’s difficult to be shocked by much of anything these days.
Still, the sheer gall of spray-painting over the names of Americans — people from our community — is a disheartening statement of our times. And tossing a figurine of Christ into the Eternal Flame that burns outside the Dougherty County Judicial Building was offensive on two levels — war veterans and Christians.
These acts were not funny pranks. They were not political statements. They were not the playful antics of someone with too much time on his or her hands.
No, in each case it was a blatant, inexcusable demonstration of utter disrespect to the men and women who fought for the freedoms those vandals enjoy, and lost their very lives to ensure those freedoms.
It was as if the vandal walked up to a fallen solider on a battlefield in Germany or Vietnam and spit in his face as he lay dying.
Unfortunately, there is a chance that the vandals will never be caught. We hope that is not the case, but cowards who sneak around sometimes do get away with their misdeeds. Whether their consciences will be an issue is anyone’s guess, but we’re not hopeful of that either. It seems that rather than doing what you can for others, the prevailing rationale for too many in our society today is to do what you please, with self always coming first.
Despite the insult, however, the monuments were cleaned and the ceremonies went on as planned on Memorial Day. Those who died in the service of their nation were properly recognized, honored and — most importantly — remembered.
That is what these miscreants don’t understand. They don’t understand how to sacrifice for others. They don’t understand how to place someone else’s needs first. They simply do not have the ability and fortitude, whether from their own character flaws or from lousy upbringing, that the brave souls remembered on these monuments had.
Their actions caused understandable outrage in the community as more than one person who we’ve run into over the long weekend remarked that they’d like to be locked up in a room with one of the vandals for a few minutes. While these criminals — and that’s what they are — should be held accountable and should be punished for their actions, there are better ways to direct the outrage that we feel.
Say a prayer for a fallen soldier and his or her family. Tell a person on active military duty or a veteran who you meet thank you. Pick up the check for one if you happen to see him or her in a restaurant. Look at the red stripes on the American flag and remember that freedom did not come without the shedding of the blood of patriots. Write a note of thanks to a U.S. service member you don’t know. He or she doesn’t know you either, but you’re one of the Americans these brave men and women put their lives on the line for every day.
Paint can mark stone, but it can never hope to blot out the true respect, true love and true appreciation that we Americans hold for those who died for us on the battlefields. We will always remember.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board