WESTMORELAND COUNTY (KDKA) – The metal flag holders being used on veterans’ graves have become a popular target for thieves.

Somewhere between 50 and 60 flag holders were taken recently from St. Mary Catholic Cemetery in Lower Burrell. Officials say another 40 were damaged.

It’s the third time Lower Burrell police are going after these kinds of thieves.

The Veteran’s Affairs Director says they’re not so worried about the cost, as the idea that someone would steal from veterans’ graves.

“Terrible, it’s very unfortunate people make money that way,” said Rick Generelli with the Lower Burrell American Legion. “It’s just ridiculous. They can’t leave the dead alone.”

Officials say they switched from brass flag holders to steel and aluminum ones a few years ago to thwart thefts, because so many were being stolen.

“Our sites are OK, thank God,” said Linda Kapus who was there to check a relative’s grave. “But I’m sorry for the ones that aren’t. You know, it’s a shame your loved ones can’t rest in peace.”

The good news, however, is that the VA says there are enough replacement flag holders in its warehouse to have the flags back up in a couple of days.

The cost to replace them is about $700, but could have been more if the thieves took the brass markers as well.

“It’s the principle,” said VA Director Matthew Zamosky. “It makes somebody wonder what course of events somebody has to go through, before they find themselves at a cemetery taking flag holders off of veterans’ graves.”

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