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Graffiti erased from veterans park, but no arrests made
Ethan Ortiz plays in the water at Veterans Park in Lula as his mother, Nancy Ortiz, siblings and a friend relax along the wall, which includes names of veterans printed on bricks. The park was vandalized last week with spray paint, but it was cleaned up over the weekend and no signs of the damage remain.

The Veterans Park in Lula shows no signs of graffiti after two community volunteers cleaned up the black spray paint that marred the park.

Reese Gilmer and Marshall Smith spent about five hours Sunday cleaning and pressure washing the vandalized memorial park.

“We were so humbled by their actions,” said Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin. “They came up unannounced and went to work and cleaned it up.”

Gilmer is the store manager of the Home Depot in Gainesville and Smith is the paint department supervisor for the store.

“We like to support our veterans,” Gilmer said. “When I heard about the vandalism on the news, we decided we were going to go up there and fix it.”

The park was dedicated in 2009 to war veterans and features 300 bricks etched with the names of veterans. On Thursday morning, city workers came to clean the park and noticed the vandalism.

Though it was not profane, the paint created quite a mess and sparked outrage among many Lula officials and residents. The park had never been vandalized in such a manner since it opened, officials said.

Nancy Ortiz, who was at the park Monday with her children, said she thought it was a shame.

“I don’t think it’s right for someone to do that where kids play. Plus, these people served our country,” she said, motioning to the names in the bricks.

City Councilwoman Vicky Chambers called the park “dear” and said it’s dedicated to veterans everywhere.

“You almost feel like they’ve done it to the veterans,” she said Thursday. “So we’re very distraught over the thought that someone would try to do this.”

A Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigator spent the better part of Saturday speaking to people in Lula, but no new information has developed, said public information officer Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks. The investigation is still under way.

The Lula Historical Society is offering a $500 reward for any information that leads to an arrest.

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