BARBERTON, Ohio - It's one of the worst cases of vandalism in recent memory at a Barberton veterans memorial and according to police the people behind the crime are out of the ordinary.
Police say Monday, three children under the age of 10 years old were interviewed and later charged with criminal damaging after ripping out landscaping at the Military Honor Roll, a large memorial for veterans at Lake Anna Park. The department received a complaint of "kids ripping" out landscaping at 5:30 a.m.
"I've never seen vandalism to this extent, especially at the Honor Roll but I don't believe the kids truly appreciated what they were doing," said Barberton Mayor William Judge.
Pictures of the damage upset many local veterans, including an 83-year-old with some choice words for the youngsters.
"It ain't right, if they were big enough, I'd probably knock them down," said Ronald Jackson standing in front of the memorial.
Also angry is Justin Greer, who served two tours in Iraq. However, instead seething, he decided to take action. Greer says he started a GoFundMe raising money he planned to use to buy flowers and plant himself at the memorial -- only he came across an unexpected roadblock.
"Just a misunderstanding and twisting via social media of the facts," the mayor said about the issue.
According to the mayor, the idea, although well-intended, cannot proceed because citizens are not allowed to plant new landscaping on their own due to a variety of factors, including concerns over an underground irrigation system, soil make up and balance, growing season, flower type and maintenance.
Greer, whose name is on the memorial, said that thanks to the support of the community, he is working with the mayor to find common ground.
"The community is powerful, very powerful and quite honestly, I don't think that memorial would have been restored unless the people stood up like they did," said Greer.
The mayor says he is working with the Barberton VFW and the city's community foundation to address an overall design plan to restore landscaping around the memorial next spring.