| GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN – The concrete soldier statue that rested in the Laird family’s Adopt-A-Site on the corner of Hawks Road and Dustin Laird Drive in Martin is missing. The statue was placed in memory of Sgt. Dustin Laird of Martin, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. Sgt. Laird’s father, Billy, talks with Martin Police Investigator Capt. Randal Walker about the incident Monday afternoon. A $1,500 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest of any involved in the apparent theft of the statue. |
The Laird family Adopt-A-Site in Martin was put into place to honor their fallen soldier, Sgt. Dustin D. Laird. Since its inception in 2007, the family has experienced not one, not two, but three emotional blows.
“I said before that I wasn’t going to give up. I am not giving up, but it will be a long time before I put another statue at this Adopt-A-Site,” Billy Laird of Martin expressed Monday afternoon when he discovered the concrete soldier statue was missing from the property.
It was only a few years ago when the first statue resembling a soldier was taken from the site to become a “war protest.”
The vandals painted the statue in red, black, white and green and replaced it at the Adopt-A-Site.
Eventually, the culprits were turned into local authorities. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to community service for the vandalism.
The first statue was a gift to Laird in his son’s memory after Sgt. Laird was killed in Iraq in support of Operation: Iraqi Freedom in 2006.
He was a member of the 913th Engineer Battalion of Union City.
After the City of Martin dedicated Dustin Laird Drive off of Hawks Road in memory of Sgt. Laird, the family adopted the street corner and Laird placed the concrete soldier on the site.
After the first statue was vandalized, Laird traveled to Indiana to replace the statue. Recently, the second statue became the target of a second vandalism when family members discovered the statue in pieces at the Adopt-A-Site.
Both incidents prompted an outpouring of donations from community members in an effort to help increase the reward offering and replace the statues.
The second, more recent incident involving the concrete statue remains under investigation.
Laird initially offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandal(s).
This time, the pot is now at $1,500 for information leading to the arrest of persons involved in the apparent theft, “no questions asked.”
“As a veteran it makes me sick. Regardless of what anybody thinks about the war, this site is not about the war. This is about Billy’s son, who gave his life for this country. In my opinion this is no different than going into a cemetery and we will be prosecuting to the fullest extent,” Martin Police Department investigator Capt. Randal Walker said Monday afternoon.
MPD Ptl. Guy Pryor discovered the statue was missing from the intersection of Hawks Road and Dustin Laird Drive Saturday morning.
“There will not be another statue that goes up until people either move on or mature. I’m just going to let it rest for a while,” Laird commented.
The statue costs $250 and is made in Indiana. It is gray in color and solid concrete.
Anyone with information pertaining to the apparent theft of the third statue or with information regarding the second vandalism to the statue is asked to call the Martin Police Department’s non-emergency number at (731) 587-5355.
Tips can also be reported through Crime Stoppers at (731) 587-2611 or 1-800-877-TIPZ (8479).
There is a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.
Sgt. Laird is a graduate of Westview High School. He was 23-years-old when he was killed by an IED in Iraq in 2006.