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WWII veteran: Vandalism to South Boston memorial ‘complete disrespect’

Vandalism at the World War II memorial in Boston. (Photo courtesy of Chetan Rakieten)

Oil maliciously dumped on the World War II memorial in South Boston brought tears to John Leoncello’s eyes as the memories of all his buddies who died in front of him during the Battle of the Bulge came flooding back.

“I’m shocked somebody did this. It’s complete disrespect,” said Leoncello, 95, of Hyde Park. “I lost a lot of my friends in that battle that I’ll never forget. Why can’t people understand life is precious?

“To think I put my life on the line on the front lines to fight for my country I really love only to have someone do this,” he added.

Leoncello’s wife, Theresa, told the Herald her husband was crying when news broke that the beloved memorial had been doused with oil, which can seep in and permanently stain stone. State police are investigating and a professional cleaning crew will be back at the seaside site with power washers, City Councilor Ed Flynn said.

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Still, Leoncello — a Purple Heart recipient who served as a rifleman in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army — said the culprits need to think about those soldiers who died for their freedom.

The memorial, near Castle Island, commemorates the 216 soldiers from South Boston and Dorchester killed during World War II.

State police said the vandalism was reported Monday at about 11:30 a.m. and troopers found “some type of oil” splashed or poured on the memorial.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch said the damage done could be irreversible.

“It’s disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful,” Lynch said at the scene Monday. “These men gave their lives in fighting Nazi Germany.”

That includes Lynch’s wife’s uncle, Arnold F. Bailey, who was killed in April 1945 “in a jump over the Rhine just before the end of World War II.” He was one of the many Boston men, some of whom left high school to fight, Lynch added, who were disrespected.

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“Why would someone, unless they’re Nazi sympathizers, come here and deface this monument? It’s a crazy world we live in. Saddening that these men who gave their very lives … that their memories would be defamed in this way,” Lynch said as volunteers scrubbed the stone.

“It’s a sign of the times. The world has just gone crazy,” Lynch added. “I’m just beside myself.”

Lynch said the oil has soaked into the granite and could “permanently deface” the monument.

Flynn said volunteers and veterans will gather at the memorial this morning to try anew to rid the granite of the oil stains.

“The South Boston community and veterans will not tolerate this and we will make sure this is cleaned up,” Flynn said. “The vets and military families deserve all the respect they’ve earned.”

John Leoncello said he couldn’t stop thinking all day about being back on patrol with his squad capturing Germans — “including one Gestapo” — and being wounded.

“They told me I was going home, but I didn’t get out. They treated my wound,” he said. “I’ve been thinking of that and all my friends who passed away over there. I want people to understand they didn’t get to go home. They deserve to be honored.”

Matt Stone contributed to this report.

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© 2019 the Boston Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.