A local memorial built to honor lives lost in the war in Iraq has been vandalized four times in the past week, prompting only muted response from city officials and Yale students, most of whom seemed aware of the monument’s existence.
The memorial — a pile of stones that represent every month of the Iraq War, with each stone inscribed with the number of U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths in a particular month — is located on the Broadway triangle, across from Ivy Noodle and next to the Civil War Monument.
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Stephen Kobasa, a member of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, the private organization that built the memorial, said a stone was stolen from the site. In addition, a sign explaining the features of the memorial was torn down Saturday, Sunday and Monday, he said.
The chair of the New Haven Parks Board, David Belowsky, said he was unaware of the vandalism. But he added that vandalism is upsetting to the Parks Department.
“We were concerned about the memorial being vandalized.” Belowsky said. “It’s a tough part of town, though.”
The city of New Haven allowed the private group to build the memorial on public property, but the city is not responsible for the memorial, City Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said.
“It’s a terrible act for anyone to vandalize a public structure, and we will do all we can to find the people responsible,” Mayorga said.
The chief of the New Haven Police Department Investigative Services Division could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Solutions for preventing future incidents of vandalism may be limited, Kobasa said.
“We don’t want to encircle the memorial with barbed wire,” he said. “We are only trying to remember the dead.”
Unless the stones are used to vandalize other property, such as cars, there is little reason to involve the police more directly, Kobasa said.
He said members of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice were both angered and saddened by the damage done to the memorial.
“Even if this vandalism was an indifferent prank, it is just as unnerving as an act of deliberate malice,” Kobasa said. “An indifferent prank means the people didn’t realize what the memorial represents.”
Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice group plans to add a new stone on Monday, in addition to replacing the stone that was stolen, he said. The group also plans to secure the explanatory sign, which has been stolen numerous times, and attach it more permanently.
Of the more than 30 Yale students interviewed, most said they were either unfamiliar with the memorial or had never seen it. Student reactions ranged from puzzlement as to why anyone would steal a stone to suspicion that an individual or a group took the rock as a random prank.
But most said they think the vandalism is troublesome and disrespectful to those who have died in Iraq.
“It’s a disturbing trend in our culture, that people don’t stop to think about how this could dishonor people,” Rek LeCounte ’11 said.
The memorial was dedicated last December.