Veterans garden vandalized

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 9, 2019

 Some of the vegetation, such as the milkweed plants, was damaged by the watering hose system, which was pulled out of the garden.

Some of the vegetation, such as the milkweed plants, was damaged by the watering hose system, which was pulled out of the garden.

Photo provided by Randy Whitmire

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Local veterans at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 129 in Shelby Township are asking why someone would want to vandalize their garden after discovering that it had been vandalized Aug. 26.

The post’s Walk of Valor Peace Garden, located on Dequindre in Shelby Township, was vandalized sometime between 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, and that Monday morning.

The post had held a Sunday flea market that ended around 5 p.m. the day before, but it had packed up with the garden untouched.

On Aug. 26, the post found vandalism to the garden that involved bending and tearing American flags out of the ground, pulling out the sprinkler system hose, damaging plants with the garden hose system, and scratching the memorial plaque in the garden.

The property is posted as private property.

“The vandalism was discovered by Cmdr. Randy Whitmire and his senior vice commander, Bill Dezur, on Monday (Aug. 26) morning,” Suzanne Rutkowski, Whitmire’s Air Force Association colleague, said in an email.

Whitmire recounted finding the vandalism and the feelings that ran through his mind that day.

“I had a couple perennials that I was going to donate to sort of fill in some gaps, and that’s when we discovered the vandalism, and Bill and I just stood there mouths agape unable to really speak with that compelling question, ‘Why?’ Why would somebody do something like this to disrespect the memory of those people who we’re paying tribute to, obviously in our paver bricks, but also the fact that these beautiful perennials never did anybody any harm, but only brought beauty, tranquility and peace, and that is the name of our Walk of Valor Peace Garden,” said Whitmire.

He said they have already started to try to save the plants in the garden with supplies they bought from the hardware store and fixed the watering system. They are happy that the damage wasn’t worse.

“The perennials damaged have been staked as best we can at this point. U.S. flags throughout the garden were all pulled up and discarded all over the grounds as if so much trash. Fortunately, the vandals did not deface nor damage any of the bricks or other pavers,” he said.

The garden has memorial bricks that border the garden as a way for families, loved ones and friends to pay tribute to and honor those who have died and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

The garden had been an Eagle Scout project that was completed just last year by a Lake Orion Scout.

Rutkowski said they are working to secure funding for a security system and monitoring, as well as other miscellaneous items. There have been people reaching out to the post to offer help with the garden. Rutkowski said they are also investigating setting up a GoFundMe account to raise funds.

Whitmire said members of the Shelby Township Board of Trustees offered to have the township’s roads and grounds crew assist with the garden, but he said he hasn’t had to do that since the damage was not as extensive.

The post has plans to put more projects, such as a gazebo and a fire pit, on other areas of its grounds, which might become future Scout projects too.

“This has been a big bucket of water in our face,” Whitmire said of the vandalism.

There will be an increase in police patrolling the area.

Anyone who wants to help the veterans can call (248) 977-7900 or reach them through the mail at Disabled American Veterans Chapter 129, P.O. Box 183581, Shelby Township, MI 48318.   

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