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Family of Marine killed 35 years ago finds grave vandalized

The grave of SSGT Thomas Handwork. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Handwork)

The Beavercreek gravesite of a U.S. Marine killed in 1985 in El Salvador has been vandalized, his family discovered when they visited the grave Friday to mark the 35th anniversary of the man’s death.

June 19, 1985, four U.S. Marines were among 13 people killed when El Salvador guerillas sprayed the crowds at two outdoor cafes with gunfire.

Thomas Handwork of Beavercreek was a guard at the U.S. embassy in El Salvador and died in that attack. On Friday, his niece, who lives in Florida, was in the Dayton area for a wedding when she visited her uncle’s resting place at Mount Zion Shoup Cemetery in Beavercreek.

SSGT Thomas Handwork. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Handwork)

Handwork’s brother, Chuck Handwork, said his daughter found that a statue of Jesus that was attached to the gravestone was missing and the site was “roughed up”.

The family filed a report with the Beavercreek Police Department.

“The whole family is furious,” Chuck Handwork said. “Just a bunch of low-lifes who did this.”

Chuck Handwork said the family is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone with information that can lead to the conviction of the persons who vandalized the grave. Anyone with information should contact the Beavercreek Police Department at 937-426-1225 or email Handwork directly at [email protected].

As most of the family lives out of state now, Chuck Handwork said they are not sure how recent the vandalism occurred, or what the motivation could have been.

“I was in the Marine Corps for eight years, my brother served for five and a half years before he was killed, my father was in the Army for four years — now I have a daughter in the Marine Corps for two years,” Chuck Handwork said.

With only pictures to go by, Chuck Handwork said the family has no idea if the vandalism was a random act.

“For all we know somebody could have just seen Jesus statue on my brother’s gravestone and cut it off,” Chuck Handwork said. “We just don’t know.”

Thomas Handwork was a graduate of Boardman High School in eastern Ohio and his father worked for a General Motors plant in the Dayton area at the time of the attack.

In a report from June 27, 1985, the Associated Press reported, “In Ohio, Marine units escorted the flag-draped coffins of Sgt. Thomas T. Handwork, 24, of the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, and Sgt. Gregory H. Weber, 22, of Cincinnati, and fired rifle salutes in their honor.”

“There is no service that a chaplain or a minister dreads more than a service like this,? Maj. Howard Mellott, a chaplain from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, told 100 mourners at Handwork’s funeral.

?Your son, along with three other fine young Marines, have become to all of us, heroes, and we want you to know that we love them as you loved them. They have in the past few days become sons of America,? Mellott said.


© 2020 the Dayton Daily News