In Vineland, more than 70 wreaths were stolen off of the graves of those who served our country, in what many are saying is a simply deplorable crime.
The cemetery behind the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland is the final resting place for hundreds of our nation's heroes. As part of the national "Wreaths of Remembrance" campaign, all of the graves were decorated for the holidays…until recently.
"Vile…it is absolutely despicable and cowardly to take from someone that can't protect themselves any longer," said Lisa Williams, Supervisor of Recreation for the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home.
Williams explained, "There are 519 souls buried out there. Sometime during the night, someone came in and took 70 wreaths off the graves."
Many say it was a crime that shocked and disturbed veterans in the Vineland community. Dennis Clifford, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, and a 48-year employee at ShopRite, told NBC40 the crime sparked several emotions, and then questions. "Anger of course, and then, ‘What can we do? What can we do to get this thing straightened out?’”
That's when the owners of Bottino's ShopRite, which employees veterans, decided to step in and donate replacement wreaths.
Bill Bottino said, "I'm sure some of them lost relatives too. So if you can do something like that to make somebody's day a little more special, I mean, you really can't put a price on that. $400, really in the scope of it, is nothing."
Personnel at the home say the wreaths weren't the only donations. Other organizations, such as the Sports Car Club of America, stepped up and donated the replacement ribbons so all of the wreaths would match, which is something they say is very important to the veterans.
Williams explained, "They were all done with the red ribbons and the same wreath for everybody. You treat everybody the same. They are all brotherhood and they should be treated the same and every one of those people out there need to have the same adornment as others."
Many staff members are just grateful for the community's support in getting the wreaths replaced. Williams added, "To have everyone rally behind us here and make sure that we did the right thing for our veterans, it really did renew my faith in the Christmas spirit, as well as many members who live and work here as well."
A police report has been filed about the theft and authorities say they are looking for the thieves.
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