War memorial vandalism draws different reactions

Repairs are moving swiftly on the damage done last week by unknown vandals to the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial on the canal, with damaged panels removed and graffiti already completely removed. Sgt. Sammy Davis, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, stands beneath the damaged portion of the Medal of Honor Memorial. The graffiti and a shattered panel have already been removed; the only sign of the damage remaining is a chipped panel above Davis' head and a missing space above that where a panel was shattered.

"It took much faster than we expected, thanks to a lot of donated effort," said Susan Hanafee of the IPALCO Foundation, which administers the site.

The crime remains unsolved, though commentators ranging from peace activists to a Medal of Honor recipient believe that it was probably not politically motivated despite anti-Bush graffiti.

"The vandalism is quite likely to be a teen-ager's rage at not being listened to - in effect, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. For the people I see in this movement see the futility of such an act," said local peace activist Eric Meiers. "[Kids have] got a lot to be pissed about nowadays. They don't have a lot in the way of jobs with satisfactory values. They're looking at a lack of jobs coming around nowadays."

Cate Russo of the Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center said that though talk within the peace movement has centered on the local anarchist movement, she doesn't believe the vandalism was the work of anarchists or indeed anyone in the movements opposing the policies of George W. Bush and the Iraq War.

"I've worked with the anarchists in Indianapolis," Russo said. "I don't agree with them politically on many things, but I've found that they're very nonjudgmental. They're the least judgmental people I've met since I lived in Indianapolis. They're very young, very idealistic, and they try to live the lifestyle they talk about ... What really angers me is that the person or persons who did that should come forward and accept the responsibility. It could even be right-wing counter protestors doing it to make it look like the left is doing it."

Sgt. Sammy Davis, a 1968 Medal of Honor recipient who presided over a ceremony last week for those who donated time and money to the reconstruction, had conciliatory words for the unknown vandals.

"If you were to average out the ages of the names of these walls, the ages would probably be very close to the age of the young men that probably did it," Davis said. "They got their medals for freedom, and these young men were exercising their freedom. But they weren't exercising it in a way that shows an appreciation and understanding for what these men did. I would hope that the young men who did this would understand the value of that freedom. ... I would hope that they'd have the honor to come forward and accept responsibility and take their medicine. I don't think throwing them in jail or fining them $10 million would help. We need to send them down the right path."

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