Vandals deface Veterans Memorial; local residents react
By ANITA MILLER - News Editor
A gasp of disbelief, a sad shake of the head and a feeling of general disgust.That's how San Marcos residents reacted Saturday morning at the sight of graffiti spray-painted on the still under construction Hays County Veterans Memorial.Sometime overnight, someone used yellow spray paint to write "Kill Bush" on a section of the memorial where names of local veterans are displayed on a sloping wall. The same slogan, along with others, was repeated on the back of the memorial."It's very disgusting," said Robert Guerrero, who served in Germany during the Vietnam era. "I have a lot of friends right there who gave their lives for this country," he added, pointing to the portion of the monument where the names of soldiers killed in action - which wasn't vandalized - are displayed. "It's just disgusting."Comments of some others who stopped by the memorial Saturday morning are unfit for publishing in a family newspaper.Santiago Villarreal, a Vietnam veteran whose name is not yet displayed on the wall, said his initial feeling was one of sadness."These are all veterans who did for their country, some who gave all," he said. "It's just sad, sad that someone would vandalize something like this. Especially right now with all that's happening in Iraq, it should be bringing more people together.""It was someone without a conscience or a heart, it's terrible," said his wife Rose. "They gave no thought of what these men and women go through - what they sacrifice. It's too beautiful - the cost, the manpower. Whoever did this I pray that God will take care of it."The 26 bricks that were defaced represented military service from World War II through the Vietnam War and included members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.Richard Cruz, the Vietnam vet who has been spearheading the project since its inception years ago, believe the paint can be removed without damaging the engraved bricks. The graffiti scrawled on the back of the monument should be easy to remove because it is on areas that will be covered with dirt or stucco, he pointed out."In the back of my mind I have always been concerned something like this might happen," Cruz said, though he never thought it would occur before the project was even complete. "It's hard, trying to complete a project like this being short on funds. Obstacles like this kind of set you back."Cruz said although volunteers have been recently working on the memorial's lights, they are not currently functioning. Had they been, someone passing by might have been more likely to see the culprits at work."Right now it's still kind of shady, dark. I think once we have lighting it may be a hold back for someone to commit this type of crime," he said, urging everyone in the community to report such occurrences if they see them."I'm angry," Cruz said. "This is to honor people who have served in the military for their service. I don't know what Bush has to do with this memorial. This wall here," he said with a sweep of his hand, "Bush wasn't even in office. I don't see the tie-in."The Villarreals noted that the memorial isn't just for honoring the past but the future as well."Our 10-year-old son raised funds for this at DeZavala School. He was one of the winners of a poster contest and got to ride in the Veterans Day float. He was so tickled and honored and proud to be a part of this and now look," Rose Villarreal said.Donations to help complete the marker can still be made, and are indeed more crucial now as clean-up will add to the overall cost. Contributions can be mailed to: Hays County Veterans Memorial, P.O. Box 1503, San Marcos, TX, 78667-1503.For general information, visit [url=http://www.sanmarcos.net/veteransmemorial]www.sanmarcos.net/veteransmemo... or contact Cruz at 245-2502 or 393-8400.