Recovered helmet, rifle spark strong community response

By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — Two pieces of a missing war memorial monument were recovered by police last week.

A bronzed rifle and helmet were stolen off the monument, which was erected last year at the Veterans of Foreign Wars display at Memorial Park, 3148 Fort St., were discovered missing Jan. 26. The monument was built to honor U.S. Army Sgt. Craig Frank, a 1997 Lincoln Park High School graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2004; it also featured a set of his dog tags, which were left intact.

The stolen items, which weighed about 50 pounds together after bronzing, were found at a house in southwest Detroit Jan. 30 after police received a tip that morning. The tip took them first to a house on Richmond in Lincoln Park, where they arrested a man and three teens for issues unrelated to the theft, Police Chief Thomas Karnes said.

One of the teens, a 15-year-old, reportedly admitted to buying the items and selling them for $50. Karnes said police are unsure if the teen was the person who took the gun and helmet.

A reward of $500 had been offered for the return of the items, Karnes said, but added that the tipster declined to accept it. Police are working on potential charges in connection with the theft, he said, but did not say whether any of those arrested would be implicated.

The boy who told police where to find the missing items has “been in trouble before,” Karnes said.

Tim Frank, the memorialized soldier’s father, told the chief that whoever was responsible for the theft should be made as part of their sentence to perform community service work on other war memorials in the Downriver area.

“If that’s possible, we may try to incorporate it,” Karnes said.

There has been an outpouring of support since the theft was discovered, he said, adding that a positive aspect of the situation has been that it has brought Sgt. Frank’s name to the forefront and given people a chance to talk about him.

“We remembered what happened with Sgt. Frank and why we were remembering him with the memorial in the first place,” Karnes said.

Photographs of the monument are being researched by the VFW memorial committee to see if it can be repaired, and replacement costs could go as high as $4,000.

“We may need to get a new rifle and helmet,” he said, adding that the pieces had been bronzed together but found separately. Karnes said he’s confident the monument will be restored, however.

“People have been coming out of the woodwork to help,” he said, “If it can be repaired, they’ll take care of it.”

Anyone wanting to donate toward repairs can send a check payable to VFW Post 552, 1125 Fort St., Lincoln Park MI 48146, Attn: Lincoln Park Memorial Fund.