A field of 140 white crosses - symbolising Waipawa servicemen lost in war - was targeted by vandals on Saturday night with about 25 of them ripped out and stolen.
The crosses were erected two weeks ago in preparation for Anzac Day, during a moving ceremony attended by Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler, police officers, army cadets and returned servicemen.
Each hole was carefully dug on a blessed patch of earth and the crosses dropped into place by elderly WWII veterans. They were placed across from the Waipawa cenotaph.
"[Veterans] don't take too kindly to this sort of treatment. It's like their memories have been walked all over," Waipawa and districts RSA president and councillor Maitland Manning said.
The theft was a cruel act of carelessness which had shocked the community. "We are deeply concerned that people saw fit to take these crosses and we would dearly love to have them back. They are a dedication to those who lost their lives. It's just senseless, it's not like it's a saleable commodity."
The field of remembrance idea came from Whangarei, where named crosses was set up in the as a tribute to 600 soldiers killed in battle.
"We felt it would be a very fitting way to remember our own war heroes."
Mr Manning hoped those who had taken the crosses would see the error of their ways and return them as soon as possible.
"Even if they just dump them back at the site in a heap, we only want them back."
He added that the symbolic field was an important way to remember history.
"I was at the opening, it was a great morning. There were about 100 people there, I know because I counted off the first 86 people - that's how many people from Waipawa died in the WWI.
"It's amazing that for somewhere so small, they gave 86 of their men."
Those brave souls from the Central Hawke's Bay town made up 0.05 per cent of all people who died in WWI.
"I think it's disgraceful and whoever did it probably had no idea that their grandfather or great-grandfather fought for this country.
"That the citizens of Waipawa can't have a memorial without it being interfered with by imbeciles is beyond me - where are their parents in all of this?"