Stolen West Richland veterans memorial items recovered

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldMarch 13, 2014 

The military helmet and M-16 rifle stolen from the West Richland veterans memorial was found behind the Benton County Mosquito Control office in West Richland.

"Someone discovered the items and turned them in to us," said West Richland police Chief Brian McElory. "We're still investigating those pieces and it's hard to tell whether they are salvageable yet."

McElory said the investigation may provide some clues to identify the culprits who vandalized the memorial at Flat Top Park.

Dan Richey of West Richland, a member of the Combat Veterans International Chapter 3, was thrilled the pieces had been found, though it's still unclear whether the items will be able to be returned to their place on The Final Tribute memorial.

He noticed last month that the rifle and helmet were missing from the memorial on one of his regular walks near the monument.

"We were hoping we'd only have to repair the memorial and not have to replace the stolen items," Richey said. "I'm just so glad they were found. Now we have to figure out a way to secure them so this doesn't happen again."

Richey plans to meet with other veterans groups at 11 a.m. Friday at Flat Top Park, at the corner of Van Giesen Street and Bombing Range Road. He welcomes anyone with ideas on how to improve the memorial so the items can't be stolen again.

If it rains Friday, the get-together will move to the Sandberg Event Center off Van Giesen at 331 S. 41st Ave.

"I'm not sure if there is a way to make something jerk-proof," he said. "But we are determined to come up with something because this memorial is very important to us."

Anyone with information on who vandalized the memorial is asked to contact the West Richland Police Department at 947-3425.

The West Richland Chamber of Commerce also is accepting donations for the Combat Veterans group.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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