BARSTOW When Richard Villegas went to deposit a check at his bank on West Main Street Friday, he noticed something with his surroundings wasn't quite right.

The military memorial a plaque set in a large stone behind the fountain in downtown had been vandalized with what appeared like animal excrement, said Luke Haefele, who also stopped by Union Bank the same day and noticed the mess.

"It looked like someone had threw poop or feces on it," said Villegas.

When the friends got together later that evening, they talked about the defaced memorial, which was a tribute to a soldier missing in action from the Vietnam War.

"That really turned my stomach," said 29-year-old Villegas, who served in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2002.

They wanted to see the memorial get cleaned up as soon as possible since it was in an area with high visibility, said Villegas.

"You know what, let's just go clean it up," Haefele said he remembers them deciding.

Saturday morning, Villegas and Haefele, 26, came armed with gloves and sponges and cleaned the feces off the memorial.

Both men said they wanted to do something to clean up the city instead of complaining about its problems.

"We're tired of the way things look and people talking about doing this and doing that," said Haefele, who is not a veteran, but said he has great respect for veterans since his grandfather was a Marine and an Iwo Jima survivor.

"We don't want this type of thing happening in our town," said Villegas.

The Barstow Police Department has not received any calls or made any arrests regarding the incident, according to Sgt. Chris Kirby.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or elee@desertdispatch.com