JARALES, N.M. (KRQE) – The decades-old War Heroes Memorial was vandalized sometime over the weekend, devastating the people who were instrumental in building it. Ruperto Baldonado came to the memorial early Sunday, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, to lower the American flag to half-staff. Baldonado said as he was tying the rope, he saw one of the memorial’s bronze plaques was missing. Upon further inspection he realized five of the nine plaques were gone.
“I was very sad the minute I spotted that,” Baldonado said. “It’s very sad that somebody had to lower themselves so low to do what they did.”
Baldonado and his wife were instrumental in getting the two-story memorial built in the 1980s. They gathered donations and visited local families whose loved ones did not return from war. Their names are listed on three sides of the memorial; the fourth side, marble tiles and bronze plaques bear the names of donors.
Altogether Baldonado said the community gave about $100,000 in money, material and labor to make the War Heroes Memorial a reality. Donors who gave $500 got their names on a bronze plaque.
The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office said the five plaques are valued at about $1,250 total. The sheriff’s office said they have checked in with scrap metal buyers in case someone attempts to sell the plaques.
Baldonado said their American Legion Post will do their best to replace the plaques that were stolen, but he hopes it won’t have to come to that.
“I pray these people, whoever they are, who took these jewels – these good things that commemorate our veterans – will have a heart and bring them back,” Baldonado said.