A mystery surrounds what caused the destruction of four commemorative granite tablets, part of a Central Texas war veterans monument, the weekend before Memorial Day.
Harold Stieber, president of the Central Texas Veterans Memorial, told KTXS he discovered the four crumbled stone slabs on the ground Sunday morning. “It’s a tragic loss for us because a lot of time, effort, and work went into this,” said Stieber who estimated the cost of the damages topping $40,000.
The toppled tablets specifically honored Brown County’s 259 veterans who fought in World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as those who served post-September 11, 2001. They also paid tribute to a WWII infantry division stationed at Camp Bowie. The names of these local heroes were engraved into the four substantial markers. The complete memorial honors all U.S. military veterans.
Brownwood Assistant Police Chief James Fuller suggested a powerful weekend storm with winds clocked in excess of 60 miles per hour may have been responsible for the downed memorial tablets. Conversely, Colonel Tom Gray, a memorial volunteer, suspected vandals desecrated the structures. “The engineers say no way it was wind, not with the amount of tonnage we are dealing with here,” he told the Brownwood News.
Local police continue to investigate if gale force winds or vandals are to blame. Still, Stieber vows to rebuild. “The memory of these men that were on this plaque are not to be forgotten,” he said. “It’s our mission to see to it they’re not, and so we will rebuild soon.”
The Brownwood veterans group raised the $200,000 needed to construct the memorial. Brown County officials said it took nearly 14 months to complete and involved the relocation, restoration, and modernization of an original WWI Memorial.
In 2016, the 12 tablets were officially unveiled during a Veterans Day dedication ceremony attended by hundreds of people. The granite markers are arranged in a semi-circle around a 75-foot diameter concrete circle. It stands in the city-owned 36th Division Memorial Park in Camp Bowie, close to an outpatient clinic for veterans, the American Legion Hall, and the Brownwood Regional Medical Center. The complex contains a five-foot wide sidewalk with wheelchair access.
Despite the damage to the tablets, a Memorial Day service remains scheduled at the Central Texas Veterans Memorial on Monday. It is open to the public.
In April, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission designated the Brown County WWI Memorial as one of its 100 World War I Centennial Memorials as part of their 100 Cities, 100 Memorials program sponsored by the U.S. World War I Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library with support from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
World War I marked its centennial in 2014. One year earlier, Congress passed the World War I Centennial Commission Act and former President Barack Obama signed it into law. The purpose of the commission is to help educate the public about WWI. All five living U.S. Presidents act as honorary chairmen on the commission.
Texas also has two other World War I Centennial Commission sanctioned sites — the Buffalo Soldier WWI Memorial in Houston and a veterans memorial in Longview.
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