RITTMAN, Ohio (WJW) — The Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman is the final resting place of 49,000 U.S. servicemen and women and their family members. For military families and the dedicated team of employees with the Department of Veterans Affairs who carefully maintain the National Cemetery, it is hallowed ground.
Cemetery Director Jesse Getz told FOX 8, “It’s very powerful, I know I do get the feeling and many of our employees do when we walk in or drive in, it’s that sense that we have to take care of our veterans and they’re looking at us and they need us.”
The National Cemetery is being expanded by 35 acres, creating an additional 20,000 grave sites, which is a full 10 years of burial space. The operators of the cemetery were disturbed to learn that under the cover of darkness, thieves snuck onto the grounds and stole as many as a dozen trees, that were scheduled to be planted by a sub-contractor as part of the expansion project.
“It’s very disrespectful, we try really hard to honor our veterans, I know the community loves our veterans as we do, and for someone to come in and steal something from these grounds, it’s very disrespectful. There is anger, anger, you know they fought for our country,” said Getz.
Rittman police believe the theft of the trees happened between Oct. 13-17, and because of the size and weight of the trees, it was not a spur of the moment crime.
“They believe that they loaded with a piece of equipment that was left here and loaded onto a truck and trailer,” said Getz.
Investigators are now checking surveillance cameras in the surrounding area of Medina County and Wayne County to see if the cameras may have captured any video of the thieves and the vehicle they use to remove the trees from the cemetery.
Those who revere the veterans buried in the National Cemetery and the sacrifices they made, believe there will be a steep price to pay for desecrating the grounds.
“I don’t like to judge, because no one is perfect, but it is really bad, it’s really disrespectful,” said Getz.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Rittman Police or Veterans Affairs Police.