Legion post to hold ceremony despite vandalism of flagpoles

May 28, 2004|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Despite the vandalism of more than 40 flagpoles this week at an Arbutus American Legion post, leaders there will conduct a scheduled Memorial Day observation tomorrow morning.

The service at the Dewey Lowman American Legion Post 109 will begin at 9 a.m. with official military ceremonies. Throughout the day, the post's six television screens will carry the dedication of the World War II memorial in Washington.

Early Monday, vandals bent 44 flagpoles to the ground at the post, at 1610 Sulphur Spring Road. Vandals also tore down a large outdoor sign the post used for announcements. No arrests have been made, police said.

"We're sensing this vandalism happened because somebody doesn't like us or what we represent," said Lee Maeser, a Navy veteran and post commander. "It took more than a child to take the ropes on the flags and pull them all the way to the ground.."

The post, which moved to its present location 10 years ago, has more than 1,600 members and holds social events such as bingo and crab feasts.

The 24-foot poles that were vandalized were used to fly American flags on patriotic holidays. The flags were not on the poles when the vandalism happened, Maeser said.

Maeser said flood lights enable drivers on nearby Interstate 95 to see the flags at night.

"We hope to rebend and put supporting sleeves around some of the poles for the weekend," he said. Eventually, the poles will be replaced with "something stronger, like steel," at an estimated cost of $13,000, he said.

Three flagpoles in front of the post's building remain standing and fly the American flag, a Missing In Action banner and the Maryland flag. The official holiday services will be conducted in front of those flags, said Maeser.

Police Capt. Stephen Vaughn, commander of the Wilkens precinct, said yesterday that he has assigned a team of detectives to the case but there has been no progress. "We have no leads, no witnesses and no one has stepped forward," Vaughn said. "We are looking for help."

Meanwhile, legionnaires see a silver lining to the vandalism.

"One good thing that possibly came out of this was that about a dozen professional people, groups and private citizens have volunteered to help restore the poles," Maeser said.

Yesterday, officials from the Erickson Retirement Communities, developers of the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, donated $1,500 to restore the flagpoles.

"There are lots of veterans in our communities and their children and grandchildren are serving in Iraq right now," said Mel Tansill, an Erickson spokesman. "We wanted to help."

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