Sunday, May 19

Veterans groups ‘saddened’ after NYC WWI memorial defaced, American flag burned by anti-Israel agitators

Veterans groups were infuriated and saddened after anti-Israel agitators vandalized a World War I monument in New York City this week, prompting city officials to voice scathing criticism of the demonstrators while noting the irony of their right to protest.

Protesters were marching on the city’s Upper East Side on Monday evening near Hunter College and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the Met Gala was being held. 

When a group converged on Central Park, they came upon the 107th United States Infantry monument, which was defaced with pro-Palestinian stickers. Protesters also sprayed-painted “Free Gaza” and burned an American flag at the site. 

The bronze statue depicts seven soldiers from the U.S. Army 107th Infantry of the Seventh Regiment in the throes of battle as they burst through the Hindenburg Line — the last and strongest of the German army’s defense — in September 1918. 

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“These despicable acts of vandalism by ignorant individuals is maddening, to say the least,” Joseph Chenelly, national executive director for AMVETS, told Fox News Digital. “The perpetrators are ignorant of American history. Hopefully, they are simply unaware of the sacrifices made by the ‘doughboys’ of World War I.”

“Hopefully, these culprits are just uneducated on how the valor displayed by young Americans more than a century ago is still important to preserving democracy today,” added Chenelly, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The stickers on the memorial were removed and crews were working to get rid of the spray paint. 

Mayor Eric Adams, whose uncle died while serving in Vietnam at age 19, blasted the vandals on Tuesday, while offering $5,000 of his own money as a reward, in addition to a $10,000 reward from the NYPD Crime Stoppers, for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. 

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“I will not stand by while people desecrate memorials for those who fought for democracy and human rights,” he said during a news conference in front of the memorial. “The rights that they [anti-Israel groups] are calling for.” 

The statue was dedicated in 1929 and sits at the park’s 67th Street entrance. The sculptor, Karl Illava, was a sergeant with the infantry, according to the Central Park Conservancy. 

Duane Sarmiento, the commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the actions of the vandals “inexcusable and infuriating that those exercising their right to free speech would deface a memorial honoring those who fought and died 106 years ago in Flanders Fields for the rights of all to be free and to help bring WWI to an end.”

A spokesperson for the American Legion, as well as other veterans groups, said it supports the right to assemble and protest peacefully. 

“However, we are saddened and disappointed of the news that protesters burned an American flag and vandalized a veterans’ memorial last night (Monday) in Central Park,” the American Legion told Fox News Digital. “Our members swore on their lives to protect our nation, our flag and all citizens. We hope that, upon reflection, the demonstrators realize that the nation’s veterans’ defense of the flag actually allows them the right to protest.”

“Once caught, it would be appropriate to see those responsible ordered to learn their history, to learn how 4 million Americans risked it all, how more than 116,700 lost their lives fighting evil and ensuring liberty will endure,” Chenelly said. “It is quite possible that if American infantrymen didn’t help turn World War I for the Allied Force in 1918 and 1919, protesters wouldn’t have their right to freedom of speech.”

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