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The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders today condemned the recent theft of veteran grave markers from the Sacred Heart Cemetery and Brotherhood Cemetery in Hainesport, Mount Holly Cemetery and Mount Moriah Cemetery in Mount Holly, and the Evergreen Cemetery in Lumberton.
Freeholder Ryan Peters, a Navy SEAL who saw multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve, spoke out against the thefts.
“As a veteran, I am speechless at the callous disrespect for the graves of my fellow brothers and sisters in the military. It’s shameful, there’s no place for it in Burlington County or anywhere for that matter,” said Freeholder Peters.
Freeholder Peters has directed the County Recycling Office to contact all of the area scrap metal dealers to encourage them to be vigilant and turn away veteran grave markers, while working to identify the perpetrators.
In the coming weeks, Freeholder Peters and the Burlington County Department of Military and Veteran’s Services will convene a summit of the victimized cemeteries, local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, and other veteran advocate organizations in Burlington County to collaboratively establish a plan on how to stop theft in the future.
“These grave markers are meant to show gratitude for the veterans who served this great country with honor. It’s extremely disheartening there are those who wish to profit off of them,” said Freeholder Peters. “I will do all I can to prevent this from happening again.”
Every year the Burlington County Department of Military and Veteran’s Services provide the funding for about 800 veteran grave markers and delivers them to cemeteries throughout the county. The markers are about two feet long with a symbol to indicate the war the veteran fought in and a holder for a family member or friend to place an American flag.
Last year veteran grave markers were reported stolen in Burlington Township and Cinnaminson.
“These actions stab at the heart of our community. Burlington County is home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and more military personnel than any other county in the state,” added Freeholder Peters. “My heart goes out to the families that have been affected by this. It’s my goal for veteran organizations and the cemeteries to come together and establish new best practices to prevent future theft.”