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March 26, 2013

Stolen soldier statue saddens local veterans

DUNCAN — Just a few crumbles of concrete, that is all that remains of the statue of a soldier meant to represent and look over Duncan’s fallen heroes.

Area veterans involved with the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and Honor Guard are creating a memorial garden behind the VFW building, 2012 N. U.S. Highway 81. To dedicate it, they planned a ceremony for 10 a.m. April 6.

Unfortunately, the ceremony will have a slight damper. Along with a wooden archway and crosses, each bearing the name of a fallen soldier from Duncan from World War II to present, a four-foot statue of a soldier was supposed to be there.

“It is going to be a big ceremony for everyone in order to show that you don’t just honor veterans on a certain day,” said Tim Zinn, DAV commander. “That’s why I didn’t choose to do it on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, because they should be honored every day of the year.”

Zinn said he saw the figure at 7:30 p.m. Saturday but when he showed up Monday morning, it was gone. One of the VFW bartenders said she saw it when she left at 2 a.m. Sunday after closing. Others reported that they hadn’t seen the statue on Sunday around 11 a.m.

“It was one of a kind in this area because I had bought the last one in existence,” said Zinn. “Right now it’s irreplaceable.”

The statue was purchased at Patio Casa in Marlow for about $500-600. They do not have any more of its kind and won’t be able to order another one until about six months from now. Zinn hopes to replace the one that was stolen if it can’t be found, however, the original statue put the DAV donation funds at a low point.

“It’s not the money, it’s the principal of what the statue stood for because these people (fallen soldiers) died protecting the freedom of the very people who stole it,” Zinn said. “They gave their all and this was something to honor them and for someone to walk in here to do this, it’s unbelievable.”

The statue weighs an estimated 700-800 pounds and chips of concrete were found at the back of the VFW building where it was waiting to be moved to its permanent position in the garden. Zinn is now afraid that even if the figure is found, it will be destroyed from the unauthorized move.

Zinn had shown up Monday morning expecting to dig a spot to pour cement into in order put the statue in its permanent spot. The veterans had Gloria Leal of Duncan to paint it to look like a modern-day soldier in camouflage in order to make it seem like a real person standing there. It took her two weeks to finish the project.

“This was very near and dear to my heart because I lost a lot of good friends to war and I don’t feel they should be dishonored this way,” said Zinn. “I want it known to everyone that someone with no honor and no dignity had the nerve to do this to a veterans organization and to fallen heroes.”

The dedication ceremony will still happen and is open to the public. Zinn will be running the program. Planned speakers and representatives include the wives of currently deployed soldiers and soldiers from Fort Sill. After the dedication, hot dogs and hamburgers will be served.

“Anyone in Duncan who has a relative who was killed in action and whose name is not in Memorial Park, we can put their name on a cross here,” Zinn said. “We’re also putting in some park benches so people can sit for reflection.”

If you have any information regarding the missing statue, call the Duncan Police Department at 580-255-2112.

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