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Veterans memorial in Wagner vandalized

WAGNER — Wagner Police Chief Tim Simonsen said his office continues to investigate the Sept. 12 vandalism of the stone veterans memorial in the city park.

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Simonsen said a surveillance video from a nearby building showed that several youths between 12 and 15 years old were likely responsible.

“The kids took some green apples from nearby trees and smeared them over the memorial and then took charcoal briquettes from a nearby grill and used them to mark the memorial,” he said.

The physical damage was largely cosmetic and was easily removed by city work crews, Simonsen said.

“It’s just the principle of the thing,” he said.

Wagner VFW Post 7319 Commander Tony Krcil said it wasn’t the first time the memorial was vandalized.

“It’s happened before and it was more severe last time,” he said, noting that during a previous attack, stone was chipped from the memorial.

An elderly veteran who lives in the apartments usually takes his daily walks by the memorial, Krcil said

“He fought in World War II and he was very upset when he saw the memorial’s condition. It was offensive,” said Krcil, “but kids are kids.”

Simsonsen said vandalism has been a problem in and near the park. Vandals have tried to set several fires in park bathrooms in recent months.

“We have a huge meth problem in this town and some kids don’t have adequate supervision or can’t be controlled by their parents. It’s frustrating.”

Doris Hosek, wife of Mayor Don Hosek, a Korean War veteran, said the ease of the memorial’s cleanup misses the point. The memorial should be valued for what it represents, she said. “It comes down to respect.”

As troubling as the memorial’s defacing has been, Krcil said, the issue has taken a back seat to other veteran problems.

VFW members are considering whether to sell their post building.

“We don’t have the finances to keep it up,” he said.

He said only a dozen of the post’s 150 registered members have remained active and that’s not enough to keep it afloat.

During a recent special meeting, members formed a committee to pursue options. The next step will be to get the building appraised.

“We have no idea of its value,” he said. Options to be explored are buying or renting cheaper space, or sharing space with the American Legion.

“There’s a lot to be said and a lot to be done,” he said.