NORRISTOWN, Pa. | The Montgomery County Commissioners condemned the theft of 56 flag holders from the historic Lansdale Cemetery last week, they announced on Thursday.
Since the 1920s, the Commissioners have provided free flag holders for veteran’s graves across Montgomery County, officials say. These flag holders honor interred veterans by their period of conflict, and serve as a signal to the County’s over 60 volunteer veteran organizations who place flags on their graves every Memorial Day.
“My father was a World War II Army veteran who was incredibly proud of his service,” said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “The removal of these flag holders to be sold for scrap is despicable, and dishonors these veterans who served our country.”
The commissioners said they support the Lansdale Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in their investigation. The penalty for removing a flag holder is a minimum of $100, per Pennsylvania state statute.
“Unfortunately, this type of theft and desecration is not uncommon,” said Dennis Miller, Director of the Montgomery County Office of Veterans Affairs. “Miscreants believe they are high dollar brass and try to scrap them only to find out they are aluminum. They also find out from scrap dealers, who we work closely with, that they have committed a crime and they don’t accept these flag holders.”
"It goes beyond marking the grave, a veteran and a hero, it is an identification piece. It's a piece of history. It's a piece of local history that someone took for their own in hopes of making a quick penny," said George Herbert, Lansdale's mayor.
Herbert has called on local businesses for help in getting justice.
"We've also reached out to salvage yards in the area to let them know that if they do happen to see bronze come through, in particular these medallions, to please let us know so that we can find out who possibly stole these markers from our cemetery," Herbert said.
They cost anywhere from $7 to $10, but Mayor Herbert says they've been free from the county for nearly 100 years. It's not the dollar amount that matters.
Conversations are ongoing as to how to replace the flag holders.
They're considering using stainless steel or plastic, since getting bronze is difficult for reasons like this.
Still, they want to know who did it in the first place.
"We're going to find you and we're going to find out what you did and how you did it, and you're going to stand before a judge, and you're going to have to explain to the Lansdale community why you desecrated the graves," Herbert said.
Replacement or original applications for flag holders can be completed online and arrangements can be made for pickup from the Office of Veterans Affairs located at the Human Services Center, 1430 Dekalb Pike, Norristown, Pa.