WINTHROP — Al Godfrey was excited last week when he visited the veterans’ monument at Norcross Point park and saw the adorned wreaths placed in honor of each branch of the military service.
But that joy turned to anger Tuesday afternoon when Godfrey returned to find out someone had stolen two of the wreaths.
“It ticks you off when someone steals the wreath off your door to your house,” Godfrey said. “But to steal from the memorial of veterans who have protected your rights to free speech and everything else, just really ticks you off.”
The wreaths were placed on the monument Saturday by Wreaths Across America volunteers. The wreaths were adorned with a red ribbon on top, an American Flag on bottom, adjacent to a flag representing the five service branches and the Merchant Marines.
Godfrey, who served in the Navy, discovered that two of the six wreaths — those dedicated to Army and Navy veterans — were stolen Tuesday when he went to work on the monument.
Godfrey went to the Winthrop Police Department and filed a report with Detective Peter Struck, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.
“For the time being, it has left a gap,” Godfrey said. “We’ll probably just spread them out so … they are not off balance.”
Godfrey says whoever took the wreaths certainly knew they had been left to honor veterans. Godfrey searched the area and is confident the wreaths did not just blow away.
“The ones exposed to the wind the most are still there,” he said. “There’s no question someone grabbed them and ran.”
That is fairly unusual, according to the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, which has donated hundreds of thousands of wreaths to memorialize veterans over the past 20 years.
“I think it’s fairly rare that that happens,” said company spokesman Wayne Merritt. “If it does, we don’t hear about it.”
A total of 6,000 wreaths were laid Saturday in the Augusta area, including at the Togus National Cemetery and both Maine Veterans Memorial Cemeteries.
Neither Godfrey nor Wreaths Across America organizers could identify who placed the wreaths. Godfrey said he has asked everyone from the Boy Scouts to the local American Legion trying to find those responsible.
“I don’t have a clue who it was,” Godfrey said. “Somebody came to Winthrop for the specific reason of setting these wreaths here.”
As much as he would like to know who placed the wreaths there in the first place, Godfrey is most interested in catching the thieves. He and members of the Winthrop Veterans Memorial Committee jointly described the actions as disturbing and those who carried them out as cowards.
“We hope what goes around comes around,” Godfrey said.
Earlier this year someone pulled up some of the pavers at the memorial. A person has been charged in connection with the crime and expected to appear in court in the coming weeks, Godfrey said.
“This is the second criminal activity at this memorial,” Godfrey said. “Let’s hope it’s the last.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642