Word of a vandalized Vietnam memorial in Venice, California, inspired scores of veterans — some from as far as Arizona — to clean up the spray-painted mess ahead of Memorial Day.
Extensive graffiti — a thick sheen of silver paint — covered the mural, which bears the names of 2,273 veterans who vanished in Vietnam and has stood untouched since 1992.
LA County Sheriff's Department investigators showed up Saturday night to assess the wall on Pacific Avenue near Sunset Court and take pictures.
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"This is about as bad as burning an American flag, stomping on it," said John Scudder, a Marine veteran of 11 1/2 years who brought his construction truck and paint remover to help organize a cleanup. "Just like that flag is a symbol of freedom, this is a symbolization of names of people who gave their lives for this country."
Word of the vandalized mural spread all the way to Arizona, where Navy veteran Kelly Townsend packed up her kids and made the drive from Phoenix to LA.
"I was reading about it this morning. It upset me," Townsend said.
She was among dozens of volunteers who showed up Sunday morning ready to work.
"I was so hurt by what I saw on the news this morning," said Charlie Saulenas, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient. "I knew that this was my job for Memorial Day."
A graffiti removal team said with no protectant having been applied to the wall, removing the graffiti would also remove the veterans' names. As the volunteers worked, names began to come off.
But volunteers said they will repaint the names — every single one of them.
"People give up their lives for our life, our way of life, and for them to just basically spit on stuff like this, it's so saddening," said Esmeralda Jordan, an Air Force veteran.
The president of the National Veterans Foundation, Floyd Meshad, said he's been working for years to have the wall restorey.
Meshad said he hopes this will expedite those efforts, as the overwhelming response from volunteers has proven the community wants the wall there for good.