It has been less than a year since several local residents and organizations finished restoring the Lompoc Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but the remembrance area is once again in need of support.
A ranger at the city-owned River Park discovered Monday morning that the memorial, located in the northern corner of the park, had been vandalized, along with other areas of the park. At the memorial site, it appeared as though someone had taken a bat or sledgehammer and smashed up more than 30 tiles on the floor of the memorial and also beaten in two of the plaques, which had nick marks and dents where they had begun to give in.
The damage at the memorial also included broken glass and other debris from when the perpetrator, or perpetrators, destroyed flower vases and other mementos that had been left at the memorial by friends and family members of the veterans.
Don Ramirez, a vice commander of the Sons of the American Legion and one of the driving forces behind the memorial’s 2016 restoration, estimated that the total cost of the damage was about $1,500.
“We don’t know what they used, but they were pounding down (on areas of the memorial),” Don Ramirez said.
Monday’s discovery is the latest in what has been a whirlwind year and a half for the memorial.
It was last May that several veterans and other residents began a push to restore the 25-year-old memorial, which at that time had fallen into a dilapidated state. The Rancho Purisima Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR, contributed about $7,000, and other organizations chipped in with offers of donations and/or services to help the restoration effort.
Ultimately, those groups, joined by volunteer workers, pulled up and replaced all the tiles at the memorial and made other aesthetic improvements. The finished, new-look monument was officially unveiled Nov. 11, 2016, during a Veterans Day ceremony.
Don Ramirez said Monday that he was thankful the person, or people, who caused the most recent damage did not destroy the more expensive tiles used on the platforms at the memorial or remove any of the plaques.
“Even if it is just minor stuff, why would someone do this?” Adele Ramirez, Don’s wife, asked at the memorial site Monday.
The damage is believed to have occurred sometime over the weekend, likely at night. Don and Adele Ramirez said they were at the site on Friday and everything appeared in order.
After inspecting the damage Monday, Don Ramirez went to the Lompoc Police Department to file a report about the incident.
The Vietnam War memorial wasn’t the only area of River Park to sustain damage over the weekend.
Several garbage dumpsters were discovered overturned at the park Monday morning, and areas of the playground had also been vandalized.
“It had to have been more than one person,” Adele Ramirez said.
Carolyn Sue Huseman, a regent with the Rancho Purisima Chapter of the DAR, said she was "disappointed, repulsed (and) devastated" by the vandalism.
"The shameless Neanderthal behavior exhibited by the perpetrators is unacceptable at all levels of society," she said. "Our heroes deserve respect, not further desecration for their valiant deeds and sacrifices. This is an example of the lowest common denominator of human behavior imaginable in our declining and much revered valley."