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This $1 million tribute to veterans in South Valley was vandalized. Supervisor offers $500 reward

The Fresno Bee - 6/18/2024

A million-dollar tribute to veterans in the South Valley has been vandalized over the weekend.

Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle, who lives and represents the city of Corcoran, offered a $500 reward for information leading to finding the culprits. An Iraq War veteran offered Valle $100 to add to the reward.

In a Facebook live video post on Monday, Valle showed how the “star of freedom,” a granite centerpiece of the city’s Five Pillars of Freedom monument was vandalized. A black marker was used to write “eighth story!” in cursive on the granite stone.

Valle asked people for help to find the culprits.

Valle, who spearheaded the $1 million grant project, said the vandalism happened sometime between noon Sunday and noon on Monday.

Valle said he was driving by the monument on Sunday around noon when two skaters on their skateboard doing tricks around the monument caught his eye, he pulled over, went and talked to the two people explaining the monument costed a lot of money and asked them to stop doing tricks at the monument and to use the pump track instead.

The monument, located at Gateway Park, is adjacent to a pump track in the same park.

In the video, Valle showed scrapes to the monument showing that skateboarders have used its area in the past.

After the conversation with the two individuals, Valle said he and his wife walked around the monument to make sure everything was all right and saw there was no damage to the memorial before he left.

Valle said he had a bad feeling about the situation and went back on Monday to check on the monument. He found the granite centerpiece was vandalized.

Valle said Paul West, one of the artists of the monument, is going to be flying from Memphis on Friday to give a personal tour of the monument to about 300 veterans who will visit the monument on Saturday morning.

“These belong to veterans all over the world,” said Valle, who is a marine. “This is a memorial to everybody that served.”

The Five Pillars of Freedomn, which was unveiled in May 2023, features 12-foot-tall sculptures of each U.S. military branch stationed in a circle. Each sculpture was based on a real veteran, and two of them are female. A Latino and an African American are also represented.

The statues are visible to travelers on Highway 43 and from those abroad Amtrak trains that whiz by parallel to the roadway.

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