Members of the Roxboro Legion had an unpleasant surprise on Saturday July 21 when they discovered the theft of the two brass plaques from the cenotaph in front of their building on 4th Ave. South in Roxboro.
Mike Shephard, president of the legion, was called in around noon by maintenance staff who had noticed that the wreath on the monument had been thrown to the ground. He then realized that someone had stolen the plaques it held. A police report was filed over the phone. Police officers did not visit the site of the crime.
“Many people are upset,” Shephard said, explaining that the monument, a tribute to all soldiers of the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, means a lot to the veterans in the legion. One plaque was inscribed with the Act of Remembrance, an ode commonly recited at memorial services for all Canadian veterans. It concludes with the phrase “We will remember them”. On the other was a dedication to all Canadian soldiers who lost their lives fighting.
“The person who stole the brass plaques from the cenotaph certainly had no regard for veterans or the community. The cost of the plaques is negligible; however, the theft is an insult to veterans, their families and the community,” wrote Sidney Wansborough, a Korean War veteran and ex-president of the Roxboro Legion, in a letter to The Chronicle. "Our freedom today had a price and our veterans have paid that price." He echoed the remarks of Ray Cluett, an 88-year-old Second World War veteran and past president, who wrote about the “insult and hurt of the deed to those who gave their lives for the freedom of mankind.”
It is believed that the plaques were stolen to be resold as scrap metal. Their monetary value was not known at the time of print, but Shephard says the new plaques will not be made of brass, because the legion wants to prevent future theft. This is the first time in the history of the Roxboro Legion that a monument has been vandalized. The cenotaph was erected in 1992, replacing a cross that had been there since the legion’s inauguration in 1958.
Vandalism of veteran memorials is not unheard of in Canada. The previous known incident was that of the monument to Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, at the Ottawa Legion last June 28. Yet what happened in Roxboro is peculiar because it is believed to have been a money-driven crime.
The Roxboro Legion is the municipal branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, the country's largest veteran organization, with over 340,000 members. It is a non-profit organization financially independent of any outside agency. Its mission is to help veterans, their families and the community through fund raising for many activities.
It is currently involved with several associations promoting healthcare, funded housing, community meals and the fight against homelessness, to name a few, and has supported Canadian troops in Afghanistan by sending gifts. Anyone wishing to know more about the legion can visit www.legionroxboro.ca or call the legion at 514-684-9575.