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rsta
02-15-06, 07:44 PM
Memorial to soldier killed in Iraq taken from cemetery

By BJ CORBITT

The Brunswick News

Last October, Crystal Merillat was forced to accept the death of her 22-year-old son, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. John Stalvey, who fell victim to a roadside blast while serving his country in Iraq.

This past Saturday, Merillat had to relive some of that initial shock when she paid a visit to her son's grave and found a bronze monument the family had placed there was missing.

"When we drove up to the cemetery that night, it was just like he had been killed all over again," said Merillat, who lives in northern Glynn County.

The monument - a life-sized sculpture of a Marine's rifle, boots and helmet - had been mounted at the gravesite at Chapel Park Cemetery in Brunswick and affixed by bolts to a foot of concrete the week before.

"For us, it was the best we could do ... and we wanted to show people what he did for this country," Merillat said.

"If you were riding past, it just stood out. We've even watched people staring at it in amazement, passing by."

When family members arrived at the grave Saturday, they saw that the bolts fastening the monument had been pulled from the concrete base. Freshly overturned dirt and tire tracks near the grave indicated that the sculpture had been loaded onto a vehicle and taken away.

Fortunately, a friend of Merillat's son, Matt Stalvey, saw the monument laying near the road in a neighborhood near the cemetery.

"One of his friends was going home that night and he saw something on the side of the road," Merillat said.

The family was able to recover the monument, which apparently had been dumped there, the same night it was taken. It was still intact and mostly unharmed.

Merillat said she believes the vandalism was a poor-spirited prank rather than a political protest against the Iraq war.

"I think it was just somebody being mean. I think if it were (a protest) that they would have tried to destroy the monument."

Merillat and her family now have to find a way to return the monument to its rightful place while trying to ensure that it doesn't get taken again.

Harold Webster, family service director for Brunswick Memorial Park Funeral Home, which serves Chapel Park Cemetery at 1180 Cate Road, said the monument will be re-installed at the grave at no charge.

The cemetery from which the memorial was taken is open to visitor around the clock.

"The (cemetery has) always been open 24 hours a day, seven days a week because families might want to come out after dark, especially during the wintertime when it gets dark so early," Webster said.

Webster said locking the gates would be unfair to families that want to visit graves, and that it wouldn't be a likely deterrent for determined vandals.

Webster said the vandalism to the Stalvey memorial was the first such incident in the cemetery's history.

"It's really upsetting to me that folks would come into a cemetery to vandalize. These are sacred grounds," Webster said.

"It was a beautiful memorial, and for someone to come in to desecrate it, to steal it like this, that's kind of appalling ... Hopefully, this'll be the first and last time anything like this ever happens."

Merillat said she hopes what happened to her family will cause people to be alert to any suspicious activity around cemeteries.

"The thing is that there are a lot of nice monuments out there. If it happened to us, it could happen to anybody," she said.

thedrifter
02-15-06, 07:48 PM
Upsetting:(

outlaw3179
02-15-06, 08:17 PM
What a bunch of fuing pusies....

rb1651
02-15-06, 09:26 PM
Personally, I'll pay to have the monument restored. If anyone can supply me with an address to the cemetary where this took place, I'll contact them and make the financial arrangements. I will not allow someone to desecrate my fellow Marine, or his family, so that some joy riding a*****e can have some fun.