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Cemetery flowers stolen off Army veteran's grave - twice

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Marcus Solis has the story.

Less than six months after her father's death, Cheryl Croci's grief is still raw, but the pain has been made worse the last couple of weeks. Flowers that the family placed at Ronald Croci's grave to commemorate his birthday have disappeared not once, but twice.

"I just can't understand why anybody would do that to somebody's grave," Cheryl said.

Ronald Croci died in March - the Army veteran was 80 and was buried at Frederick Loescher Veterans' Cemetery in New Hempstead. It is unclear whether the thefts were committed by kids, or even by other families looking to place live flowers in the cemetery where the vast majority on display are of the artificial variety. Cheryl said the vandalism has been especially hard on her mother.

"She's been going through a rough time, and this was her place to talk to Dad, and touch base with him, let him know what's going on. To come here and have everything taken was just a shame," adds Cheryl.

The cemetery is the resting place for 4,000 Rockland County veterans. It is maintained by the county, which is now considering installing surveillance cameras.

"These people, it may sound corny, but they saved the country for us, and all we're giving them is a little plot of land and a piece of granite, and they're not left in peace," said Jerry Donnellan of the Rockland County Veterans Office.

Officials say periodically there have been complaints from other families about missing items. A local assemblyman is introducing a bill that would make desecrating a grave of a veteran a felony.

"It should be a crime - for anybody's grave, especially for a veteran, somebody who protected us and gave us what we have today, and they can't even rest in peace," Cheryl said.

Cheryl says she will not stop placing flowers in her father's memory.
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