What kind of lowlife would steal a memorial?

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

I stopped wondering long ago how anyone can murder a 9-year-old. After all, we kill children every day in this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

But in my naivete, I assumed that once we murdered our children some semblance of decency would prevail and we'd allow them to rest in peace.

And so it came as a surprise to learn that someone had stolen a memorial to Krystal Steadman just a day after a new one had been planted up on Spooner Summit, near the spot where her killer (or killers) dumped her lifeless and battered body eight months ago.

I was struck by the irony of the theft. The memorial was erected by a group of Vietnam veterans who decided that the little girl needed a more permanent memorial after the grassroots one had grown to the point of becoming a safety hazard. For the record, the Nevada Department of Transportation did the correct thing in asking that it be removed. Snow had fallen and the previous tribute to Krystal - started modestly by a supermarket clerk who never knew her - had indeed become a problem. The mountain of flowers and stuffed animals was blocking snow removal equipment and a turnoff for motorists seeking relief from the hazardous roadway.

Then along came a group of war veterans on motorcycles. Sporting beards and nicknames such as Mud Flap, Packer and Misfire, the men are the kind of men you see on the highway every day. They roar past you on their powerful Harley's, beards pressed back by the wind, sunglasses and black clothing giving them the look of sinister Raider fans on the losing end of a Bronco game.

You instinctively check your car door locks and gasoline gauge and try not to make eye contact. "Oh-my-god-what-if-they-surround-us-and-take-our-women-and-children?" you ask yourself in panic.

Real killers, you forget, generally look just like you. They're the guys next door. The ones you see on the way to work. The ones you stop and ask directions from. The ones who little girls trust because they don't wear black and ride big motorcycles.

This group of merry men who came to Spooner Summit were mostly members of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club. Having been in Vietnam, I can guess that most of the nicknames had something to do with that war they left behind more than 25 years ago. If I had a Harley my nickname would be Weak Knees.

These men (and all the women who served and still serve) are why we still call this land the Home of the Brave. Them and thousands more like them who fought in Vietnam, Korea, and places far and beyond our borders.

Something touched these former warriors when they read that Krystal's memorial had been removed. "We did this because we understand very well what it's like to lose someone and what it's like to be forgotten by people," Mud Flap told one of our reporters last week.

And so these forgotten ones dropped some cement mix and planted a redwood cross along Highway 50 West, out of the way of the snow plows and weary motorists who drive to and from Tahoe vacations oblivious to the tragedy of a little girl's death. They even inscribed it with the words: "In Loving Memory of my Sister Krystal Dawn Steadman - August 25, 1990 - March 19, 2000." The motorcycle club members (another called the Legacy Motorcycle Club also contributed) wanted the tribute to come not from themselves, but from Krystal's sister, Sonya Klempner.

These men in black weren't seeking recognition. It's been too many years in between.

Before the cement could dry a coward (or cowards since, cowards generally don't like to be alone) removed the cross. It seems this Home of the Brave also has more than its share of cowards.

But that hasn't swayed Packer and his friends. Nor has it swayed the hundreds more who have read about the theft and are just as outraged.

"I've got another cross being built with metalwork," Packer told a reporter. "A guy in Mound House is doing it out of railroad rails. I'm going to build a wooden cross around that. So it's not going anywhere."

Maybe not. At least I hope not. We need to be reminded as often as possible that our own children are among the thousands filling these killing fields within this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. And they must not be forgotten.

But just in case it would be great to see Packer and his friends bump into the coward or cowards who took Krystal's cross. Now that's something I would pay to see.

Our Home of the Brave needs more brave inhabitants if we are to keep our foundation firmly rooted. So long as we continue to kill our children and steal from their graves, our home will be nothing more than a house of cards.

Anyone wanting to help cover costs of a new memorial can reach Packer at 883-1903.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment