Just over a week ago Taradale RSA president Peter Grant proudly helped oversee the placing of 66 memorial crosses as part of the Spirit of Anzac celebrations, which were being staged at the Taradale War Memorial grounds.
Yesterday he was back at the site, but for all the wrong reasons.
Vandals had targeted the crosses which were set up as a Field of Remembrance for serviceman from the Taradale district who died at war.
"About half of them had been pulled out and left lying across the ground and several had the cross spars broken off - it is just so disappointing," Mr Grant said.
The damage was spotted about 8am by an RSA member who lives nearby and he quickly got on the phone to Mr Grant who rounded up other members to get the field of crosses repaired and put back in place.
"It is mindless vandalism and very upsetting for us because it dishonours these veterans - the people who did this would probably have no idea what these crosses represent."
Sixty-five of the crosses, which are adorned with a poppy, bear the names of a soldier from the Taradale district who died in wartime, while the 66th cross honours the unknown soldier.
They were all eventually repaired and put back in place, with the RSA crew hopeful they would remain that way.
Mr Grant is a retired lieutenant colonel and Vietnam veteran with 25 years military service. He is also a former manager of the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison and regional manager for the Department of Corrections with 15 years service.
"Putting my corrections hat on, I have to say that this sort of vandalism, and things like graffiti, are usually indications of a start to a criminal history unless they can sort themselves out - in my experience they are on the road to prison and I don't want to see that."
He hoped the offenders would think about what they had done and take in the fact that the "guys whose names are on the crosses" died for their freedom.
"If they had any courage they should turn up at an RSA and offer to do something for the veterans."
Mr Grant said when he went to see what had happened he had his granddaughter with him.
"She looked up at me and asked what was wrong - and I said 'I'm just sad'."
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