HAVERHILL — Vandalism has once again struck the Korean War Veterans Memorial in GAR Park.
"When I visited the memorial to plant flowers in advance of Memorial Day, I noticed that someone had smashed one of the new LED lights we had installed not too long ago," said Russell V.J. Chaput, founder of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Committee and now its treasurer, secretary and caretaker.
The light is one of six that ring the memorial and illuminate it at night.
Chaput said his group raised more than $130,000 to erect the monument, which is located at the northern edge of GAR Park near Winter Street and the Citizens Center.
"These lights cost us veterans approximately $500 each to have installed," Chaput said, noting that 16 Haverhill men were lost in the war and the memorial was created to honor them.
He said the Korean War veterans raise money and pay for all maintenance and upkeep of the memorial.
"I have been doing most of the upkeep myself, but we need money for future maintenance," Chaput added. "I will be turning 90 in January and I need help raising about $30,000, to turn over to our board of directors."
He said that having a floodlight smashed takes quite a bite out of the memorial's maintenance account, in light of the problems veterans have had with fundraising in recent years.
"The city took away our most profitable on-street donation sites, then COVID-19 came along and put a stop to what locations we were left with to raise funds, and now we don't have many local Korean War veterans left to help," Chaput said.
This incident wasn't the first time the monument has been harmed since it was dedicated in 2002.
Past vandalism includes broken benches along with damage to the stone wall that surrounds the monument. Vandals also smashed a plastic bin that held fundraising fliers for the monument maintenance fund. The bin was attached to an iron fence that surrounds the statue of a U.S. soldier.
Chaput is appealing to all who appreciate what he called the "best looking memorial in the city" to donate to keep it under private control.
"We need to fix the lights and do perpetual maintenance on an ongoing basis," he said.
Checks to the Korean War Memorial Maintenance Fund can be sent to Haverhill Bank, 180 Merrimack St., Haverhill, MA 01830, or to Russell V.J. Chaput, 56 Brandy Brow Road, Haverhill, MA 01830.