East Texas veterans bronze grave markers stolen

Updated: May. 15, 2017 at 6:44 PM CDT
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UPSHUR COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas Cemetery has been hit by thieves.

A church member of Zion Hill Baptist Church was mowing the cemetery in the 2800 block of Poppy Road in Upshur County and noticed several missing bronze placards on memorial stones.

Norman Chism who is on the Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery Committee was the first to notice missing placards a couple weeks ago.

He told Shirley Hargest Jackson, a lifetime member of the church, and they notified Upshur County Deputies.

"I've heard of destroying tombstones and all kinds of acts of vandalism, but not going in and taking a stone," Jackson said.

They think it happened a month or two ago.

"He usually mows between a two-week span of time," Jackson stated.

Chism noticed 7 missing memorial markers three weeks before: names like Hargest, Granville, Lynn, and Tanner.

But Jackson said he is not surprised.

"Not surprised because there has been vandalism throughout East Texas in cemeteries," Jackson revealed.

She thinks this kind of theft is a sign of the times.

"We live in a society where rights and privileges and all that kind of stuff is all mixed up and it's okay to go in someone's cemetery and take the headstones or whatever," Jackson said.

Family members are buried in groups and graves a century old are not uncommon. Chism's Grandfather Onie Hargest has his tombstone, but the military marker is gone.

John Tanner now has only a funeral home nameplate to mark his grave.

"Well now John was my cousin, the guy that's buried right up here, John Tanner," Jackson said.

So the theft hits home for many church members, one who said that whoever did it is stealing from the dead.

Although church members would like to see the thieves prosecuted, the main thing they're after are the military markers. Every bronze placard that was taken marked the grave of a veteran.

Jackson believes the cemetery was established shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and many grave markers at the cemetery are unmarked stones.

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