WILMINGTON — Flags on veterans’ graves at Sugar Grove Cemetery were removed and thrown in the dumpster sometime over the weekend, and the City of Wilmington is seeking information on who may have perpetrated the incident.
City Administrator Marian Miller said Monday she wants to stress that no one from the city removed the flags.
“The city did not order this work to be done,” said Miller. “The city had every intention of continuing with the tradition to have the flag replacement ceremony through veterans service organizations the Sunday before Memorial Day.”
Acting Police Chief Ron Cravens told the News Journal that Wilmington police are investigating the incident and they are looking to identify two possible suspects, and police hope to make an arrest soon.
A joint news release from American Legion Post 49 Commander Jim Cook and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6710 Commander Richard James was issued Monday after they met with Mayor John Stanforth, at the mayor’s request, along with Service Director Brian Shidaker and City Administrator Marian Miller. It stated:
“The mayor informed the commanders that the American flags placed on the graves of veterans, in honor of their service to America, had been removed by a person or persons unknown, and thrown in a dumpster located on the cemetery property. He also assured them he and his staff had investigated this atrocity and had determined, ‘No city employee removed or directed the removal of the flags.’ He also described his ‘disgust’ when he saw pictures of the flags in a dumpster.
“The City Service Director, Brian Shidaker, instructed cemetery personnel to retrieve all the flags from the dumpster and respectfully place them in boxes. By the conclusion of the meeting, the two commanders were able to take possession of the boxes.
“The flags will be ‘honorably retired’ in separate ceremonies conducted by the veterans’ organizations. The VFW will hold their ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, at 7 p.m., and the American Legion will conduct theirs on the second Tuesday of June (June 11) at 7:30 p.m. The public is welcomed to both ceremonies.
“In further discussions, it was decided not to alter the normal schedule for replacing the flags. As usual, new American flags will be placed in the holders on the veterans’ graves on the Sunday immediately preceding Memorial Day. This year the flags will be replaced on May 26 beginning a 8 a.m.
“With the flags removed, it will be difficult to recognize every veteran’s grave, therefore, the two commanders said, ‘This year the activity will have to be a little more organized and will require more volunteers.’ They are requesting ‘Any civic group or individual able to help honor our deceased veterans by replacing the stolen flags, please be at Sugar Grove’s main entrance at approximately 7:45 a.m. on May 26.”
Anyone with information should call Wilmington police at 937-382-3833.
The News Journal’s John Hamilton contributed to this story.