As Americans prepare to celebrate the country's independence, police in Columbia County are searching for vandals who damaged a Civil War era cemetery. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, local veterans groups have gone out of their way to make sure the act doesn't ruin the Fourth of July holiday.
HUDSON, NY – "I came here on Sunday evening and found all of the flags gone again,” Vincent Wallace said. “I was very, very disappointed and that immediately turned to anger."
For the second time in two years, Cedar Park Cemetery's civil war gravesite caretaker Vincent Wallace arrived at the cemetery days before the Fourth of July holiday to find that dozens of U.S. flags that once adorned the graves of Civil War veterans had been stolen.
"I just can't comprehend the mindset that would allow someone to do this," said Wallace, who served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 43 years.
"It's particularly disturbing when it's a cemetery,” Hudson Police Department Commissioner Gary Graziano said Tuesday. “The police department has been up trying to determine how and who did this."
This time last year, flags were stolen from a different portion of the cemetery that houses the remains of Jewish Civil War soldiers.
To see it happen again has left local veterans in disbelief.
"It takes a lot of heart out of you when you do this all day and then see it damaged like this," said Randy Staats, a U.S. Navy veteran.
"It hurts our flag, it hurts our country and it shows a lack of respect for the men and women who are out there right now in harm's way," Army veteran Daniel Shaughnasey said.
Spread out over several acres with limited lighting, police say the cemetery is a difficult area to patrol but they are working toward a solution that may include surveillance cameras.
Determined to not let the act spoil the holiday weekend, veterans were out Wednesday morning replacing every stolen flag one-by-one.
"Certainly it sends a fantastic message to the community that we are dedicated to our veterans and to the ones we have lost over time," Hudson mayor William Hallenbeck said.
"These gentleman here and the men and women who serve in our armed forces, they deserve the respect of their final resting place to be honored with the American flag, which they've served so proudly under," Shaugnasey said.
Hudson Police have no suspects. Anyone with information is asked to call the department at (518) 828-3388