'It doesn't make a lot of sense': Flags stolen from graves of Windsor First World War veterans

The flags were placed by members of the Windsor Veterans Memorial Services Committee who decorate the gravesites of veterans buried in cemeteries across the city. 

The flags were placed on gravesites by members of the Windsor Veteran Memorial Services Committee

Paul Lauzon, president of the WVMSC, says he couldn't "put any logic to it." (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Around 75 flags that were stolen from the gravesites of First World War veterans in Windsor Grove Cemetery have been replaced.

Canadian flags which were placed there by the Windsor Veterans Memorial Services Committee (WVMSC) were stolen on Saturday afternoon.

The WVMSC decorate the gravesites of veterans buried in cemeteries across the city. Their president Paul Lauzon said he couldn't "put any logic" to the theft.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said. "The flags we put out there are available in dollar stores."

Lauzon said he spoke with cemetery staff who said whomever is responsible for removing the flags also took the flag flying from a large flagpole standing within the cemetery. 

The gravesites of deceased First World War veterans buried in Windsor Grove Cemetery. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"Some brass pottery and things from other grave sites have been taken as well, so I'm not sure of the motive for the flags," said Lauzon. "I don't know where you would sell them, what kind of benefit you could get from it."

Lauzon said  WVMSC members who live near the cemetery first noticed the missing flags.

"Everybody has their own cemetery that they take care of," he said. "And this group noticed that flags were missing not on Second World War graves, but on First World War graves."

What's important is that every veteran, whether dead or alive, is honoured ...- Paul Lauzon, president of the Windsor Veterans Memorial Services Committee

Members of the WVMSC spent part of Monday and Tuesday replanting flags to replace those that were taken.

"What's important is that every veteran, whether dead or alive, is honoured, especially this week," said Lauzon, adding that a generous donor who heard about the theft donated more than 100 replacement flags.

Karl Lovett, vice president of WVMSC said it was heartbreaking to see veterans dishonoured.

"My father was in the second World War and I'm dedicated to do whatever I can for veterans," said Lovett. "If we have to replace the flags two or three times ... we'll get the job done."

Lovett said the dollar store flags aren't worth stealing and while he knows you can't "throw someone in jail" for stealing a flag, he thinks people should be told who the culprit is, if they're caught. 

"Have them sit down with a veteran and tell him what he's done," said Lovett as a suggested punishment. 

According to Lauzon, cemetery staff said there were "a couple of individuals that they were keeping an eye on."

Ed Shabsove, president of Windsor Memorial and Grove cemeteries, says he believes the flags were taken on Saturday. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Still, Lauzon said it's difficult to speculate who's responsible for taking the flags.

"So we just keep an eye on it and make sure that there's a number of flags out there for dignity and respect to the veterans," he said. 

Ed Shabsove, president of Windsor Memorial and Grove cemeteries said he thinks the flags were taken on Saturday.

"It's disgusting, disrespectful," said Shabsove. "We're trying to honour people who gave us freedom ... and then this happens."

Shabsove said the security guard contacted police, including giving authorities the identity of the suspected individual — who he thinks has done about $900 in damage in total.

The cemetery added nighttime cameras a few months ago, but they don't cover the entire property.

I think it's just a one-off- Paul Lauzon

Members of the WVMSC aren't aware of flags being removed from the gravesites of veterans buried at other cemeteries in the city. 

"I think it's just a one-off," said Lauzon. "I think it's someone passing through and just decided to take them … It could have been worse. They could have cut the rope on the main flagpole when they took the flag, and then we would have had to take the flag pole down to restore the rope."

Lauzon requested that members of the public keep an eye out for similar acts of vandalism in the future.

"If you see something, say something, and if you notice people out of place or picking up flags, especially this time of year … you could call Windsor police and let them know that it's taking place," he said. "It's all about dignity and respect, and people realize that those flags are there because people died so that they have the right to walk through there and have the freedom they have today."

"They should be a little more respectful of why they're there, and be thankful."

With files from Dale Molnar


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