The Dorchester Vietnam Veterans Memorial was defaced with a swastika and other graffiti Thursday, just one day after repairs to the monument were completed from when it was vandalized in October.
Several dozen recent plantings of shrubs and flowers were torn out of the ground and American flags were removed and thrown into water near the memorial located on land owned by the University of Massachusetts Boston.
The timing of the vandalism, after a long cleanup and ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, stunned local veterans and residents.
“It was just damaged in October, and we put all of this money into it. We fund-raised,” said Joseph Zinck, president of the Dorchester Vietnam Memorial Committee. “The renovations finished yesterday. And now, to have someone come out here and do this, I can’t fathom it. I can’t wrap my head around it right now.”
“Why would you ever want to disrespect them?” asked Joe Cook, 60, a South Boston resident who visited the memorial Thursday evening. “They’re putting their life on the line and showing what it’s all about: giving back to our community and our country.”
State troopers and campus police at UMass Boston are investigating the incident.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the vandalism “a cowardly act.”
“We’ll continue to work with all our partners to restore this memorial to the veterans who sacrificed all for our country,” said Walsh in a statement.
The memorial on Morrissey Boulevard stands on a grassy land across a cove from UMass Boston. The names of fallen veterans are engraved in stone, as well as the tribute, “Through us, they will live forever!”
Near that monument on Thursday evening, graffiti could be seen on three stones. A swastika was scrawled on one, along with the message “East India Tea Company.”
Holes could be seen in mulched ground, presumably marking places where plants were supposed to go before they were uprooted. Shrubs had been laid on grass yards away.
The vandalism was reported Thursday afternoon, shortly after Zinck visited the memorial with his wife. Police told him, after reviewing security footage, that it was vandalized shortly after he left at 12:45 p.m., he said.
The memorial was vandalized in October, including sustaining damage from bricks that were thrown at it and an American flag that was cut up, the Globe reported .
The repairs cost “many thousands” of dollars, Zinck said, and the memorial looked “totally different than before.”
UMass Boston property installed a security camera at the site earlier this month.
School officials, said UMass Boston Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman in a statement, are reviewing video footage and “will help the investigation in any way we can.”
The university committed $15,000 toward the full restoration of the memorial after it was vandalized last fall. After that incident, UMass Boston employees worked to clean up the shrubs and debris and recently returned to do landscaping work and re-rope the poles and re-hang the flags at the site.
“UMass Boston is very proud of the veteran community on our campus and in the neighborhoods around us,” said Newman in her statement. “I am horrified at this callous act of vandalism, and saddened for those veterans who are listed on the monument and their families who are still here with us.”