A New Mexico family is outraged after someone stole a Vietnam veteran’s headstone from a local cemetery.
The family says seeing the vandalized site is like opening up an old wound. Now they’re searching for answers.
“I saw my heart missing,” said his son, Pete Martin Garcia.
“Nobody should ever do this,” said the veteran’s niece, Krystal Candelaria. “A cousin of mine came over to visit the grave so that she could bring over some flowers.”
She was visiting the Our Lady of Sorrows Cemetery, by I-25 in Bernalillo, only to see the cemetery had been vandalized.
“Unfortunately when she arrived she came across my uncle’s grave,” she said. “Whose headstone or plaque I guess you could call it was missing.”
The bronze headstone belonged to marine and Vietnam vet Matias Pete Garcia.
“He went to Vietnam, he served in Vietnam for three years and came back in ’68,” Pete Martin Garcia said.
Garcia passed away from natural causes in 2014, and was buried at the family’s plot. The family visits the grave site often. They describe the damage as heartbreaking.
“It’s heartbreaking. Nobody should ever have to come to a grave site and see something like this that you put, with your heart down, in memory of them,” she said.
“How could somebody do this to a hero?” Garcia said. “I mean, they go out there and they protect us every day, keep our country free.”
The headstone was donated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Now that it’s gone, the family has no idea how they will replace it.
“I would hope that somebody would either know where the whereabouts is,” she explained. “We won’t ask any questions, we don’t need to know who it was, we don’t even need to know what their intentions were.”
The family estimates the the headstone cost around $500. The family believes at least two other headstones were vandalized or stolen as well.