After vandals caused more than $ 10,000 in damage to the city’s Veterans Memorial Park, three officers – all veterans themselves – decided to step in and clean up.
ROCK FALLS, Illinois – Three Rock Falls police officers spent Tuesday morning painting and cleaning up the city’s Veterans Memorial Park after vandals caused more than $ 10,000 in damage.
The three officers are veterans themselves and say that giving of their time and effort is about honoring the men and women in the military who came before them.
Across the city-owned park, graffiti littered the group’s shell and flag poles, a security camera was damaged, and a Pearl Harbor granite memorial painted, which it was said to the city, will leave permanent damage.
According to Police Chief David Pilgrim, the miners were responsible for the disorder, which he said is “ongoing” in recent months. Pilgrim also states that these individuals have been identified, but will not be named publicly, due to their age.
“I just don’t get it,” Pilgrim said. “The mere fact that kids come in and damage a park in general, but it’s a veterans’ park, that just added an extra layer of annoyance and disgust.”
This is why three of his agents went out of their way on Tuesday morning to clean up the park.
Officers Kristian Montanez, Dustin Sugars and Jerrod Reynolds showed up at the memorial with paint, rollers, brushes and rakes. They spent the day covering all the graffiti on the group’s hull, then cleaning up the leaves around the structure.
“We just wanted to spruce it up a bit,” Montanez said. “You’re tired of looking at the mess so you want to clean it up.” ”
And for all three, or the damage has occurred, strike a little closer to the house.
Montanez is a veteran of the Air Force and the Army. His colleagues, both former Marines. And all three grew up in the region. Montanez remembers walking to the park to meet up with friends when he was a young teenager.
“I mean, Veterans Day, obviously for us is everyday,” Montanez said. “I mean, we always think about it. We’re (at the park), everyday, we walk by, so that was one of those things where we were like, ‘Let’s get him knocked out.'”
He said the idea came from Sugars, who answered a call to the memorial and wanted to do something about all the vandalism. The officers weren’t paid for their efforts, but said it was always something they wanted to do, to honor their fellow veterans.
“To pay respect and homage to those who came before you, and that’s what it is (park),” Montanez said. “We want everyone to enjoy it. That’s what we want for this place. It’s just a nice place for people to come and have fun.”
And their efforts touched the heart of James ‘Jim’ Starr, commander of American Legion Post 902 in Rock Falls.
Starr was drafted in 1969. At the age of 19, he enlisted in December and went to Vietnam as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.
Asked about the vandalism at the veterans memorial, he said it bothered him.
“It really bothered us,” Starr said. “The memorial that is there was originally purchased and paid for by veterans, the VFW and the American Legion.”
He says that while the Legion generally relies on community support to keep the park welcoming and presentable, Tuesday’s cleanup meant a bit more.
“Veterans are a special group of people,” he said, starting to cry a little. “Because when they come into the service, they sign a contract with the United States to defend and protect the United States. Even up to and with their lives. And that cannot be taken away. And it is. how much they love this country. ”
Three veterans who give back to their community … once again.
“It’s giving back, yeah,” Starr said. “Veterans are good at this – giving back.”