The new veterans memorial in Ely was coming along nicely near the shore of Miners Lake.
Since starting construction last summer, flagpoles had gone up for every branch of the service along with Old Glory. Organizers settled on plans for 11 stone monuments depicting various wars and conflicts, most of them in a 30-foot diameter ring. Five flowering crabapple trees planted at the site last fall were starting to take root.
But in the dark of Sunday night or Monday morning last week, someone hacked all five trees, breaking their young trunks to lie broken and bent in the same direction, each tree destroyed.
“Everybody that’s heard about it is pretty appalled,” said Ely city clerk Harold Langowski. “I don’t know if it was just a random act of vandalism or if they had some motive. ... It’s just real perplexing.”
The brazen act drew reaction from near and far, and now the memorial site is set to come back stronger. Almost immediately after the discovery of the vandalism, donations flooded in for new trees and more.
Ely Flower and Seed co-owner David Starkman, who planted the trees donated by a group called Friends of the Trees of Ely, wrote about it on his company’s Facebook page.
In less than a week, more than $1,300 was donated toward the memorial itself.
Bailey Nurseries in Newport donated 15 new trees that will flower in red, white and pink.
And other donations are allowing the Ely Area Veterans Memorial Committee to offer a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits. Any money raised beyond that amount will go toward security cameras at the site.
Dick Zahn, a navy veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, chairs the committee and started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the memorial, writing that “the men and women of Ely have always stepped up when our country has called.”
Now, after the vandalism, “people are pretty much outraged,” Zahn said.
But the community is responding in a way that makes him and others grateful.
“Whatever [the vandals’ intentions were kind of backfired on them,” he said. “Ely does pull together.”
To donate to the Ely Area Veterans Memorial, go to gofundme.com/vrdhy8bw.