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WAUSEON — Sherryann Franks visits Wauseon Union Cemetery almost every day. But when Ms. Franks went recently to visit her relatives' grave sites, she noticed something was amiss.
She saw that dozens of bronze flag holders and medallions were missing from the graves of combat veterans. Ms. Franks, who works for the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, informed the cemetery officials and contacted the police.
"It's just crazy. It's the most disrespectful thing I've ever heard," she said. "When they've fought for what we have today, it's pretty low."
On each grave, she explained, is to be a roughly 18-inch-tall bronze rod that holds an American flag, along with an intricately carved medallion that marks the war in which the veteran served.
More than 60 of both the metal rods and the medallions were stolen Wednesday, said Scott Spirtz, sexton of Wauseon Union Cemetery. Three days later, about 40 more rods were stolen, he said. Both nights, the flags were placed back into the ground, as if to hide the theft, he said.
Authorities speculated that the objects were to be sold as scrap metal. Local scrap dealers have been contacted with pictures of the items and have been warned not to accept them, said Roy Miller, chief deputy of the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.
Mr. Miller said the suspect or suspects probably had trouble selling the medallions taken Wednesday night, given that the Saturday night theft included only the flag holders. Although it is illegal for scrap dealers to purchase such items, he said that in the case of the flag holders it might be difficult for dealers to figure out that the objects are stolen, unless forewarned by authorities.
The grave sites robbed included those of veterans from the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, said Ms. Frank.
Some of the veterans died in combat, she said, and others died of natural causes.
Ms. Frank said that although her relatives are not veterans, she knew some of the former servicemen in the cemetery, including someone whose grave site was robbed.
"It just broke my heart. We just buried one of my dear friends from my church, and they stole his," she said.
Robert Schmitt, president of the Memorial Day Association, said he hears of such incidents happening from time to time, when thieves discover that the metal could be worth some money. "It's degrading," he said. "But when people need money, they'll do anything to get it."
Wauseon Union Cemetery holds about 7,000 graves, said Mr. Spirtz, and about 500 of them are of veterans.
Contact Casey Sumner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.