MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They served our country and now police say veterans are being disrespected.

Police want to find whoever is stealing from their graves. The thieves took dozens of brass rods that hold a veterans’ symbols of service.

The thefts happened this week at Oronoco Cemetery in Olmsted County.

Cemetery president John Tilford discovered piles of Veteran’s stars, not near their graves, but tossed aside.

“It’s all they have left. To the family and to the veteran, it’s a big deal,” he said. “To these people it’s just another piece of scrap steel.”

Tilford thinks the thieves took the brass rods from the ground in order to sell the metal.

“It kind of lets you down that somebody that’s buried in here, that’s given everything they had, a World War II veteran, and now they don’t even have recognition from the country anymore,” Tilford said.

John Grabko heard about the thefts and headed straight for his father’s plot.

“Got a call from family members concerned,” he said.

The U.S. Navy veteran’s star was left intact, but he feels for other veterans’ families who had one stolen.

“It’s absolutely a concern that somebody would take anything related to anybody, particularly those veterans who are lying here who can’t protect their own property,” Grabko said.

Tilford has tried to replace the stars. He’s most concerned about this upcoming Memorial Day and how he’ll honor all of the veterans with a flag, when he doesn’t know where they all belong.

“Somebody needs to set an example that you just don’t steal from these people,” Tilford said.

The sheriff’s office is asking people to watch for cars going into cemeteries late at night. Dozens of similar thefts have happened in nearby Goodhue County.

What someone may get for selling the metal is a fraction of what the markers cost, which is about $60 to $70.

Jennifer Mayerle

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