A reward up to $5,000 is being offered for the arrest and convction of the person or persons who recently stole hundreds of veteran markers from graves at St. Joseph Cemetery in Warren and at Sheffield and St. Michael's Cemetery in Sheffield, according to Ed Burris, Warren County's Director of Veterans Affairs and president of the Warren County Veterans Council.
The council offered up to a $4,000 reward.
Following comments by Burris at a press conference Thursday, Warren County Commissioner John Eggleston offered an additional $1,000 from the commissioners bringing the total reward to up to $5,000.
Photo by Diana Paddock
Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Ed Burris is seen in front of a display of veterans grave markers similar to those stolen from local cemeteries
Eggleston, a veteran, added that "society can be measured by the respect for the elederly, for those who have gone before ... those who served our country." Eggleston characterized the thefts as "vile" and "heinous." He said it was difficult to understand such a degree of disrespect "for a few dollars."
Jennie Holden, whose father's marker was stolen at St. Joseph Cemetery, said the act was "so offensive. It's sad to think that anyone could do that."
Investigators theorize the bronze markers and their brass supports are being sold or melted and sold for scrap metal.
The markers commemorate a veteran's service in the armed forces to the U.S., and their theft has had a profound effect on families, Burris said.
The markers - which hold a small American flag at the graveside - were stolen over the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, making their theft particularly reprehensible, Burris pointed out.
Those markers "represent that veteran's time of service," Burris said. "Those who serve understand. Families of those who serve understand, they understand the respect they had for that flag."
Burris encourages families to check their loved one's graves to see if their veteran markers have been stolen and report it to the cemetery. Cemeteries in the area are still going through records for an exact number of stolen markers. Some date back to the Civil War and the Spanish American War.
Burris urged anyone with information to contact the VA office at 728-3478, Pennsylvania State Police at 728-3600, or Crimestoppers at (800) 83CRIME.
We need to "bring these people to justice," Burris concluded, "and give closure for families, who are devastated."
Eggleston added he hopes the perpetrators and those who know who the perpetrators are will "examine their conscience ... look inside themselves" and help bring the thieves to justice.
Additional donations can be made to the reward fund at the Veterans Administration office at the Warren County Courthouse, earmarked "reward fund."