by: Wendy Corona Updated:HENRY COUNTY, Ga. —
It's considered sacred ground for veterans and most visitors of Heritage Park in Henry County. It's a place of reverence and respect that has also become a target for vandals.
People wander through the park enjoying the flags and open space. It's a symbol of sacrifice and freedom, but last week, the peace here was disrupted.
"No respect. No morals. People just destroy anything," said park visitor Rick Yarbrough. "Nothing means nothing to them. It's very sad."
Yarbrough came to check on his bench after hearing one had been vandalized.
"I had knots in my stomach walking up here thinking 'Oh boy! It's going to be torn up.' I was glad to see that it was still safe," Yarbrough said.
Dedications carved into bricks and benches honor all who fought for and defended this country. But these chunks of granite in a rear storage yard is all that is left of the bench that used to sit front and center of this veteran's memorial.
"It's solid granite," said Jim Joyce, facility coordinator for Henry County's Parks and Recreation Department. "Weighs probably about
600-800 pounds and it was knocked over and when it was knocked over it broke in several places."
"We would assume that it's criminal, but it's very possible this could be accidental," Sgt. Joey Smith of Henry County's
police department said.
Valued at up to $4,000, the damage to the government property makes this crime a felony.
"When you're having a bad day," Yarbrough
said, "you come here and you look at those pictures and then you realize that your day ain't nearly as bad as their day was."
A preservation fund will cover the cost to replace the dedicated bench. The goal is to have it installed by Memorial Day, in time for the celebration at Heritage Park which is expected to draw between 600 and 1,000 visitors.