The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 29, 2013

WWII veteran’s grave to get new flag

By Karen Middleton
news@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS —

Today, at 9 a.m. the Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives were to replace what a thief stole from the grave of a World War II veteran.

Museum Director Sandy Thompson said Monday that after reading a Sunday News Courier story about thieves making off three times with American flags from a pole at the Roselawn Cemetery gravesite of Navy veteran Cornelius D. Griffin, she decided something should be done about it.

Museum officials will meet with his widow, Louise Griffin, and present her with a new flag in memory of her husband.

Griffin, notified The News Courier about the thefts a week ago.

“I certainly didn’t expect this,” said Griffin. “That wasn’t the reason I reported the flag stolen. But I sure do appreciate what they are doing.”

Griffin said she received a call from Marcella Coblentz, who told her about a flag also stolen from a loved one’s grave at Roselawn.

Coblentz said Monday that she and her husband, Tommy, have noticed two of their fairly new flags go missing from the grave of Tommy’s father, Dan Coblentz, a WWII and Korean War veteran.

“We didn’t think about them being stolen,” said Coblentz. “The last one was up less than six months, and the first one had been up about a year and a half. Neither of them was worn, but we thought there must be some group that goes around taking down flags they think are worn out.”

Coblentz said the flags were purchased from the American Flag Co. in Huntsville and were of high quality. She said the first flag was put up at the same time she and her husband erected flagpoles both at Roselawn and their home on Father’s Day 2010.

“Our flag at home still looks really good and hasn’t had to be replaced,” she said. “The other day when we were up to the cemetery, I said, ‘Look, our flag is gone.’ It was still in really good condition. I looked across the cemetery and there are many, many flags flying.

“It just never occurred to me that someone would go around stealing flags from graves.”

Griffin said her latest theft occurred in late July, just three weeks after the flag was mounted on the permanent pole at her husband’s gravesite.

Cornelius D. Griffin died Nov. 9, 2008. Griffin said she didn’t put up a new flag for Veterans Day because she feared having a new flag stolen, too.

Police have told her they will watch for thefts from the cemetery.

To report missing flags, call Whitney Christopher at the Athens Cemetery Department at 256-233-8743.