Lance Cpl. Jeremy Burris of Liberty, Texas became a fallen hero on Oct. 8 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in the Al-Anbar Province of Iraq after bringing two injured Marines to safety.
Burris, 22, was buried in his hometown at the Cooke Memorial Cemetery on Oct. 16 where dozens of mourners came to express their condolences and support the Burris family, his mother Karla Burris said.
But less than two days after his burial, his grave was vandalized. While the headstone was spared, posters saying “We love you Jeremy” were torn to pieces. Flower stands were ripped up, destroyed, and scattered about, according to Bill Buchanan, who works with the Cemetery.
"It was trashed," said Bill Offutt, a volunteer who helped clean the site. "It is beyond my comprehension why someone would do this."
The desecration of Burris' grave is believed to be a deliberate act, but Cooke Memorial Cemetery is no stranger to destroyed graves.
"People have gotten drunk and run over head stones with their car," Buchanan said. "But this is a separate act...nothing intentional like this has ever happened before."
Information about the destroyed grave was received by Liberty Police on Thursday afternoon. Members of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) returned to the cemetery to retrieve the flags from the graves to protect them when they noticed the destroyed floral sprays and posters and contacted police, according to Chief Mike Cummings.
The Cooke Memorial Cemetery is surrounded by a chain-link gate, is locked at night and open in the morning.
In hopes of getting more information about the perpetrator or perpetrators, a fund to offer a reward for the capture of the suspect is being started, according to Buchanan. An exact figure has not been determined, he added, but the reward is expected to be several thousand dollars.
If captured, the suspect will be charged with criminal mischief against a grave or monument. In the state of Texas, it will be considered a felony punishable by up to two years in jail.
Jeremy Burris is remembered by his mother as a "strong Christian, a strong Marine, and a loving son." On his MySpace profile, he talks about being heavily involved in church, lists the Bible as "the best book ever," and names his father and various Biblical figures as his heroes.
He was the oldest of seven children and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Marine Expeditionary Force, in Camp Pendleton, California.
Karla Burris said her son has received the Purple Heart. More awards are a possibility, but have not been confirmed by his base in California.
Laura Dorsett, a volunteer who helped clean the grave, was reportedly shocked by what she saw. Buchanan says he remembers her repeatedly saying "We can't let the family see this, we just can't."