Eagle Scout who built VFW memorial upset by vandalism
Display damaged on Fourth of July
— Elkton teen Nicholas Cifolelli spent four years planning, fundraising and building a memorial at Newark’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 475 for his Eagle Scout project, but it took only minutes for someone to vandalize it.
According to Newark Police spokesman Lt. Bill Hargrove, someone damaged the bronze-colored statue of St. Michael — the patron saint of the military, police, firefighters and paramedics — that was originally on a pedestal in the middle of the memorial.
It was discovered in pieces at approximately 2 p.m. on Independence Day in the parking lot of city hall, which is located next to the VFW building on Veterans Drive.
Cifolelli, 18, said he found out about the incident last
On Independence Day, someone broke one of the wings on a statue of St. Michael that was in a memorial at VFW Post 475 in Newark.
Thursday, the day he was scheduled to be honored by the VFW for his hard work.
“My dad called me and I was like, ‘ You’re kidding
me,’” he said.
He said he only finished his Eagle Scout project six months ago, but it took years of planning starting
his freshman year at Elkton High School. He said he knew right away he wanted to build a memorial honoring veterans.
“A lot of people do projects at schools and churches and parks,” he said. “I wanted to do mine for the people who are the reason we have all of that.”
Cifolelli took inspiration from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and got to work on building a memorial on a small hill on the side of VFW Post 475. He raised $6,000 for the project by organizing a dinner at the VFW, soliciting donations and selling memorial bricks.
“When you mention you’re doing an Eagle Scout project and it’s for veterans, people are very, very giving,” he said.
It took Cifolelli and his dad 18 months to dig out the hill, lay the stone patio and wall and build the wooden pergola by hand with help from his soccer team and Scout troop. When the work was done, he placed the cold-cast bronze statue of St. Michael — paid for by the Knights of Columbus — on a pedestal in the center, engraved with the poem “Forgotten Heroes” by Richard Hemphill.
Cifolelli said the memorial was much more laborintensive than he expected and, at times, there were engineering and construction setbacks that made him regret taking on such a large-scale project. But instead of giving up, he focused on his leadership, coordination and motivation skills.
“That’s when I learned perseverance really is the most important part,” he said.
His father, Frank, said looking at the memorial makes him proud.
“When Nick sets his mind to something, he stays with it, and he stayed with this,” he said.
Delaware VFW Chief of Staff John Morrow said last week that from the looks of the damage, it seems someone took the statue off the pedestal and threw it onto the pavement.
“What a shame that somebody would do that,” he said.
Post Commander Vince Shavico was just as shocked and disappointed to learn someone had ruined it.
“It’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” Shavico said. “We have World War II vet- erans here. Our post does a lot for the community. It’s just terrible that somebody would do that.”
Security footage of the incident is not available, but Hargrove said police are still investigating in an attempt to identify a suspect. As of Monday, no new information was available.
Meanwhile, Morrow said, the VFW will try to get the statue repaired, but it will be costly, and the VFW is already struggling financially.
“It’s not an everyday item that you can just replace,” he said.
Cifolelli said he feels bad about the incident and would be willing to help the VFW find a way to pay for the damage. Acts of vandalism are never pleasant, but the fact that someone damaged a memorial meant to honor veterans on Independence Day makes it that much worse, he said.
“The ideal situation is that someone did this because they’re completely oblivious, but that’s difficult to believe I’d say,” he said. “Regardless, it’s certainly upsetting.”
Nicholas Cifolelli, 18, of Elkton, Md., stands in front of the memorial he built at VFW Post 475 in Newark. On Independence Day, someone took the statue of St. Michael off the pedestal in the center, damaging one of its wings.