Perhaps it's time that schools or the community mount an anti-vandalism effort

Baffling, frustrating, despicable — there are a lot of ways to describe the senseless vandalism of the Wildland Firefighters Monument last week.

Let's face it, vandalism of any kind accomplishes nothing beyond destruction for the sake of destruction. Whether it's graffiti, damaging public restrooms, or defacing a building or work of art in the community, the act does not originate from rational thinking. Frankly, it's just stupid and pointless.

That said, the recent damage done to the monument somehow feels much worse, and it is hard to adequately express the emotions that many people felt when they learned about the destruction.

Some ask why anybody would deface a monument honoring brave firefighters who lost their lives trying to save the lives of strangers. For rational people, it simply doesn't compute.

Others on social media expressed sorrow, although it is hard to imagine that a few words and a string of crying emoji fully conveyed their emotions.

People were angry. Count Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins among them. A career lawman, he has seen a lot of deplorable things and said in a Facebook post that few things truly make him angry anymore. Vandalism of the monument was an exception.

"How could anyone, regardless of age, damage such an important monument?" he asks. "Dedicated in 1996, in memory of nine members of the Prineville Hot Shots who were among 14 firefighters who died on July 6, 1994 … this memorial defines our city's heart and dedication to those who serve."

Cummins went on to implore the public to help them find the broken, stolen pieces of the bronze statue — a chain saw blade and a radio cord — so the statue can be restored. Hopefully, somebody out there knows something. Maybe someone or a group of people saw what happened or heard about it. Will they have the decency, the guts to come forward?

Sadly, this isn't the first time a local memorial has been defaced or destroyed. A few years back, our community awoke to learn that an entire section of the war memorial at Ochoco Creek Park had been ripped off of the structure. The whole thing gone. Thankfully, people were able to repair the damage, and hopefully, that will be the case with the bronze statue.

Yet even if the monument is repaired, it is fair to wonder how we repair the apparent disconnect among some people in our community. Whether it was kids or adults, somewhere along the way the vandals in each case apparently lost a basic regard for personal property or human feelings, or had some shortsighted plan for getting attention. How else can you explain it?

Perhaps it's time that schools or the community mount an anti-vandalism effort. We have seen highly visible programs designed to curb drug and alcohol abuse and bullying. Maybe it's time to push community pride and respect for the property of others. It probably wouldn't completely eradicate the problem, but it might plant a seed and help more people see vandalism for what it is — a destructive and pointless blight on our community.

By Jason Chaney, news editor

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