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KIA bridge sign damaged

| November 1, 2013

COSHOCTON – The theft of bronze flag holders from the graves of veterans seems to have subsided but vandalism of Killed-In-Action Memorial Bridge Project signs that are erected throughout the County continues.

Recently another KIA sign situated on Lafayette Township Road 156 was damaged by what appeared to have been a shotgun blast. This marks the fifth time in three years that one of the red and white signs have been used as “target practice” and have had to be replaced.

Some signs have been damaged by floodwaters and farm equipment but in the cases where they are riddled with bullet holes that are the most frustrating situations to deal with.

“These incidents simply are ‘not cool’ and neither are the person or persons who perpetrate these types of crimes,” said Coshocton County Veterans Service Officer Jim Barstow.

It should be noted that these damage reports are no longer being handled solely within the Veterans Office. If a sign is damaged, it is inspected to determine whether it was vandalized or victim of an accident.

When foul play is suspected, a report is filed with the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office and an investigation is being conducted. At minimum, if a person is convicted, they could be facing a second-degree misdemeanor for criminal damaging.

According to Lt. Dean Hettinger of the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office,  if the Prosecutor’s Office determines that the property that is damaged is a “tomb, monument, gravestone or other similar structure that is used as a memorial for the dead,” the charge could be a fifth degree felony for vandalism.

Hettinger also stated that there is also a hunting provision that prohibits anyone from shooting on, from or across a public roadway.

These signs are paid for not by taxpayer money; replacement of the signs is handled by a fund consisting of private donations, each replacement costing $50. The County Engineers Department assists with removal and installation.

“It is primarily a moral issue but it also becomes very personal,” Barstow said. “The signs are a monument designed to pay tribute to servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. These are veterans who fought and died during the wars in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and World War II.”

The same concerns go for the 190 flag holders that were stolen from veterans’ graves throughout the county last spring. The Sheriff’s Office had some suspects but has not yet been able to link them to their crimes.

These items are purchased using taxpayer dollars, but thanks to the generous donations from businesses Given-Dawson and Miller Funeral Homes, they were replaced.

Local scrap yard owners are now on the lookout for those who believe they can make a quick buck by recycling them.

“Anyone living in close proximity to one of the counties’ cemeteries or near one of the KIA bridges are asked to keep a closer eye on these areas and help maintain the integrity of our deceased veterans,” Barstow said.

The Veterans Service Commission and County Sheriff’s Office ask that citizens be extra vigilant when it comes to reporting these incidents. If a sign is seen to be damaged contact the Sheriff’s Office at 622-2411 or the Veterans Service Office at 622-2313.

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Category: People & Places

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Article contributed to The Beacon.

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