BEAVER, Pa. — Tammy Sheets wants respect.
The Desert Storm veteran was appalled and offended when she recently visited the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at McIntosh Square in Beaver. The granite monument is guarded by four soldier statues that represent each branch of the military.
However, the soldiers are missing important pieces of their uniforms -- their rifles.
Sheets, of Center Township, said she was shocked to see the statues were empty-handed.
“They would never send me into war without a weapon,” Sheets said, explaining that a soldier’s gun is a vital part of the uniform. Sheets, whose husband is still active in the service, worked as a military police officer for both the Army and Air Force.
She also expressed concern that the rifles might have been stolen from the monument, which was erected in 1900 to honor all Beaver County veterans.
With Memorial Day coming soon, Sheets seeks some answers.
Beaver Police Chief Daniel Madgar said he was aware of the missing rifles and even brought it up at a recent Beaver Council meeting.
“From my understanding, they have been gone for 20 years,” Madgar said. He said the guns, which were not active firearms but metal replicas, were taken down when the monument was undergoing restoration in the 1980s. He said the guns were not stolen.
Madgar said he believes the guns were removed because they were falling apart and were never replaced. He didn't know where the guns went after they were removed.
“It just goes back so far,” Madgar said.
The Beaver County Veterans Affairs Office also isn’t sure where the guns went or who was in charge of the refurbishment.
According to a Beaver County history website, the statues were being restored in the mid-1980s by artisans who worked at the Dominic Leo Sign Co. of Aliquippa. Leo, an artist, was reported to have visited Washington, D.C., to learn about monument restoration. One of the four figures was restored and unveiled in November 1987. A re-dedication of the monument, which also features the figure of Lady Liberty holding a wreath at the top of the hexagonal shaft, was planned for July 4, 1988.
Weather, time and vandalism took their toll on the monument, prompting county government officials and citizens to start raising funds for the restoration project in 1986. According to the website, $32,000 of the $38,000 needed to complete the project was raised through contributions from veterans groups, service organizations, businesses and individuals. Schoolchildren also contributed funds from a bowl-a-thon, sponsored by local police. Funds were received from as far away as Florida and Alaska.
“It was just upsetting because they don’t maintain it,” Sheets said, believing the missing guns are offensive to veterans. “It’s embarrassing.”
The monument is on land owned by the state but maintained by the county, she said.
Sheets said she plans to ask the Beaver County Commissioners to track down the guns and make the monument complete again.
"There has to be a form of respect," she said. "Otherwise, don’t send us to war."