HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's a place that honors our country's brave service men and women. But on Tuesday, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl was left recovering from property damage at the hands of vandals.
Cemetery officials say the area near the front gate recently has been the site of gang fights, and alcohol and drug use.
Bernard and Pearl Kagan of Australia are visiting the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl for the first time.
"We're exploring this magnificent island," Bernard Kagan said. "And this is one of the areas we wanted to see."
But they never expected to see vandalism.
Overnight, vandals chopped down branches from two palm trees at the entrance of the national shrine and arranged them to spell out SOS, which could be the name of a local gang.
"I'm really horrified to think that someone did this and, obviously, premeditated," Pearl Kagan said. "They would have had to bring in equipment to do this."
Officers ask people who live in the area if they saw anything.
Referred to as the Hill of Sacrifice, Punchbowl is the final resting place for nearly 50,000 military men and women and their families.
"Demands a degree of reverence and respect for those who have gone before us," Bernard Kagan said. "So for this avenue of honor to be desecrated this way is very disappointing."
Police recover the beer bottles for possible fingerprint analysis and DNA testing. One of the bottles was placed at the top of a heavily-damaged tree.
"These trees were grown by someone who worked here. He's now retired," Jeffrey Bernardino, cemetery gardener, said. "He took pride in planting all these trees."
Property damage is nothing new here. In 1997, vandals desecrated grave markers using red paint.
The crimes anger Bernardino, a worker at the cemetery for 33 years and an Army reservist.
"It saddens me because we take pride in what we do in maintaining the cemetery to honor our vets," he said.
Cemetery officials say it will cost $500 to $600 to replace the more heavily-damaged tree.