A western central Texas community jumped in to help an area veterans group raise funds to restore a war memorial that mysteriously sustained thousands of dollars of damage in the past week.
Breitbart Texas reported that four of 12 commemorative granite tablets, part of a larger memorial, were found in pieces on Sunday by Harold Stieber, president of the Central Texas Veterans Memorial Committee. He estimated the replacement tablets could cost more than $40,000.
The Central Texas Veterans Memorial recognizes all U.S. war veterans in a dozen stone structures and 14 plaques but specifically pays homage to the 259 locals who died while serving their country from World War I to military operations as recently as post-9/11. One of the destroyed tablets read, in part: “We honor all selfless heroes for your courageous service … Your sacrifice is what made this country great. We salute you!”
Dr. Steve Kelly, the group’s immediate past president, told Breitbart Texas that this tribute site, located in Brownwood, stands in a city-owned park that was once the 36th Division headquarters of the World War II military training facility Camp Bowie. He called the memorial a “salute to sacrifice.” Kelly estimated each of the destroyed tablets weighed roughly 3,000 pounds.
In April, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission designated the Central Texas Veterans Memorial as one of their 100 World War I Centennial sites.
Although the cause of the devastation remain unknown, Brownwood police continue to investigate. For now, some believe gale force winds toppled the sturdy tablets. Others suspect vandalism.
On Monday, Weston Jacobs, who manages his family’s hardware store in Brownwood, offered to haul off the crumbled rocks in his truck after he learned what happened to the four monuments. This young man said he felt compelled to help after he saw a local woman standing in tears at the memorial. There she saw the name of her son, who was killed in Iraq in 2006, remained intact on one of the tablets still standing.
“It was pretty touching to see her walk up there and touch the stone with her son’s name. She didn’t know anybody was looking,” he told Breitbart Texas on Friday. “That changed the game for me as far was why we were doing what we were doing.”
For Jacobs, this moment transformed the reality of hauling off rubble into an idea to auction off the broken stones “with some incredible history written on them” to help raise funds for the replacement tablets. He said, “My first instinct was to make a bad thing a good thing.”
The fundraiser will be held all day Saturday at Weakley-Watson Ace Hardware, first founded in 1876 as a wagon shop. Jacobs plans to auction off statue chunks from paper weight size to those that weigh up to 40 or 50 pounds. He says some of the larger decorative pieces will be sold through a silent auction. All proceeds will go to restoring the damaged war memorial.
Jacobs called the reaction he has received so far about the auction “incredible.” He said, “We’re a small hardware store in West Texas. I’m having people call every day just asking how they can help.” He said people from all over the country who have never even seen the monument have called the hardware store. He added that anyone who wants to help should call the store.
However, Jacobs emphasized that the day is really about “those who gave absolutely everything they could give, who fought for us, and those who died serving their country.” He stated, “We just want to do something small to give back.”
Additionally, Kelly created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for replacement tablets. Kelly said the veterans group hopes to raise $50,000. As of press time, they have received $1,066 towards that goal.
He told Breitbart Texas, “Our sole purpose is that we are unconditionally committed to repairing and restoring our memorial to its original state.”
Undeterred by the damages, the Central Texas Veterans Memorial group will hold a Memorial Day service on Monday.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.