Hundreds gather to help restore vandalized Colorado Freedom Memorial

AURORA, Colo. -- Robert and Jean Terry stood looking up at the Colorado Freedom Memorial under a row of names.

“Your brother was 14th … I see him,” they said pointing above on the wall.

The Terrys came to visit and remember her brother Raymond Stolte, who was killed in World War II.

The Freedom Memorial is dedicated to all from Colorado who died while defending freedom.

But July 3, someone vandalized it, causing at least $55,000 in damage.

Stolte's name is just one panel over from the glass that someone smashed the day before Independence Day.

"It's hard to understand the mindset of someone that would damage something like this,” Robert Terry said. “You know it's just beyond my comprehension.”

Some of their friends are also among 6,000 names of those who died from Colorado. More than half of whom never made it back home but were buried overseas.

"They were headed back to the fire base when the IED went off under his vehicle,” said John Harris, whose son Blake was killed in Iraq 10 years ago and now appears on the memorial.

"I think it's an affront to every family member that has a name on the memorial."

"Their kids are on this memorial,” said Colorado Freedom Memorial founder Rick Crandall. “So whoever breaks it you broke a piece of glass you broke the heart of families whose hearts have been broken enough already. I mean this is beyond sick to me."

Crandall worked nearly 20 years to create the memorial only to find it vandalized.

But the vandalism has also sparked a huge outpouring of support from visitors. There have been donations to replace the expensive shattered glass where more names were to be added.

"I fail to understand vandalism in any way,” said Colorado State Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora. “It is so disrespectful to those who've given their life in freedom for our country.”

"When this happened and I saw how people responded,” Crandall said. “Six-thousand names on the memorial over 3,000 never came home. Those moms never had a grave to go grieve. This is their grave."

A grave desecrated but never to be forgotten.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help restore the memorial.

The Aurora Police Department is investigating and is offering a reward of up to $2,000 from the Aurora Police Reward Fund for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the event it's determined to be a criminal incident.

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