Etched into stone are names of heroes in our nation's history at the Veteran's Memorial Plaza overlooking Blackwater River. Bricks bear the names of servicemen and veterans along the "walk of honor." A wall of tears monument bearing the inscription, "Tears of a grateful nation for those who gave all," used to drip water over a tiled painting of an eagle between an American, Missing in Action, and Prisoner of War flag.
Now it doesn’t.
Ralph Nesenson, Veteran's Memorial Plaza General Manager, said, "I had to turn it off." Nesenson said someone damaged the spouts on the memorial, bending some and breaking others to the point he needed to shut it down until repairs can be made. . Last week, the county commissioners approved without objection $1,151 for an electronic security system at the park from District Three recreation reserves to help protect the memorial from vandals and theft.
"For ten years there were no problems, but since July 4, last year we've had graffiti on walls and sidewalks and stolen lights inside the memorial," Nesenson said. Not only did the memorial suffer defacement, but Nesenson said someone stole the "gator," a golf cart-like vehicle he used. According to Commissioner Don Salter, founder and chairman of the Veterans Memorial Plaza, the gator remained under lock and key, used primarily by Nesenson for hauling bricks to the plaza. Nesenson also said someone took light fixtures from inside the memorial. According to Nesenson, the underwater lights cost $300 apiece. Nesenson said he believes the theft and damage was perpetrated by youth and adults as he said juveniles would have no reason to remove lights.
Salter said, "Over the last several years we had skaters on top of veteran bricks, chipping them and marking benches and chipping them." Salter said as of now he's unaware of any leads on those who defaced the memorial. "Damage and theft is bad anywhere but especially for the veterans plaza, for those who paid the ultimate price," Salter said. Several concrete benches at the plaza have metal guards on the edges reducing skaters' ability to ride or grind them.
Captain Cox of the Milton Police Department said right now there are no leads, but recently a report indicated an unknown suspect was wanted for criminal mischief and theft of the spotlights at the plaza.
The graffiti is no longer there and the plaza looks pristine now and hopes are that will remain the case after the county approved security system goes in place.