Valor for Sale?

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Pa. -- Grave markers at area cemeteries honor veterans who served and sometimes died fighting.

Newswatch 16 has discovered the marker of a vet from our area was being sold online.

The concerned daughter of a veteran alerted us to an online auction where a charity was selling a grave marker honoring a vet from Schuylkill County.

Area veterans and their advocates see this as valor for sale.

"They're so sacred to us, and when they're put on the grave, it means so much to us," said VFW post commander James Kuchwala.

But when we showed Kuchwalla a grave marker in an online auction, he felt like it was a punch in the gut.

"To be sold online, wow, what is this world coming to?"

A New Jersey woman, whose father fought in World War II, alerted Newswatch 16 to this grave marker up for auction by Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake in Baltimore.

The marker was given in 1936 by the Schuylkill County commissioners to commemorate the service of a veteran of the War of 1812.

"I could say I'm surprised, but it's not the first time it's happened," said Brenda Zechman, the director of veterans' affairs in Schuylkill County.

In recent years, Zechman has pushed for the prosecution of people who stole markers from the grave to get money melting the brass. She fears the world wide web will become a trading post for these medallions of valor.

"It's just immoral to do it."

Selling these markers online not only irks veterans and their families, it's against the law. In fact, it's a federal offense to display them anywhere except a gravesite or a memorial.

When we contacted Goodwill of the Chesapeake in Baltimore, the organization immediately stopped the online auction.

Its vice president tells Newswatch 16, "It was never our intention to minimize or profit from the sacrifices of those who fought and died for this country. Internally, we have notified our staff to increase their awareness of items of historical significance."

"They didn't make their workers aware of it," Zechman said. "That happens all the time."

"My hat goes off to them. They knew how wrong it was," Kuchwala added.

Goodwill of the Chesapeake in Baltimore promises it will send that item to Veterans Affairs in Schuylkill County.

Zechman says it will be difficult to learn the name of the vet from the War of 1812 whose family was awarded that grave marker, but she promises it will be placed where the county can honor the sacrifice.

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