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Donations pour in for replacement of stolen vets plaque

About $9,000 in donations or financial commitments had poured in by Thursday afternoon to help replace the bronze plaque in Walnut Park commemorating 15 local, fallen Vietnam soldiers that was reported missing on Tuesday.

The plaque, about 25 inches by 30 inches and an inch thick, was removed from the stone platform near the gazebo in Walnut Park, where it had stood for decades. It appears to have gone missing around Christmas time and was likely stolen for the value of its metal.

Shortly after he learned about the theft, Petaluma Historical Museum President Joe Noriel, who became familiar with the plaque during a Vietnam War exhibit the museum held in 2010, started working with veterans groups to replace the plaque.

The same day, Will Bomar of Powell's Sweet Shoppe offered to chip in a $500 matching donation.

As of Thursday, Les Schwab Tires had committed to contributing $1,000 to the cause, and additional donations and commitments for money or assistance had poured in from veterans, the McDowell Drug Task Force, the Petaluma Fire Department union and other community members.

"It's crazy," said Noriel of the community reaction to the theft. He added that, ironically, it may provide an opportunity to install an even better memorial.

At the time that the plaque first went in, right after the Vietnam War, it was controversial for some community members, he said. Now, public sentiment seems to have changed .

"It's time to really recognize these guys," he said.

A meeting is set for Thursday, Jan. 17 at 2 p.m. to discuss replacement options.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Petaluma Museum at 20 4th St., 94952. For information on Thursday's meeting, call 778-4398.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call Petaluma Police Officer Bill Baseman at (707) 778-4372.


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