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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 30, 2010

AWOL soldier soon to be back on duty

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — The soldier statue stolen from the Home Front Café has been returned.

“He’s been nicked up a little bit,” said the café’s owner, Cindy Pollard. “It wasn’t badly damaged. We’ll unveil it soon.”

Pollard said that Altamont Police told her they traced it in Albany and Rensselaer, only to find it closer to home.

“I’m glad to have him back,” she said. “It seems like a group of kids did it.” The statue disappeared at the end of the Altamont Fair in August, and Pollard feared that it was long gone. “My husband had it more accurately,” Pollard said this week. Her husband surmised that local youth took the statue as a prank.

The missing statue received local newspaper and television coverage, which inspired the Altamont Veterans of Foreign Wars Post last week to offer a $500 reward for its return.

“I’m glad it’s returned,” said Dennis Cyr, commander of Altamont’s post. “We want to be careful and not reward criminals, themselves. We don’t want to reward bad behavior.”

Cyr said yesterday, “I heard the tip [that led to the statue’s return] was kind of suspicious...We don’t want to reward anybody that stole it and decided to return it. You’d have everybody stealing everything.”

The Home Front Café on Main Street is filled with World War II memorabilia. The 300-pound statue depicts a World War II soldier. The statue was stationed outside the café next to a period tank.

The statue’s pedestal near its feet was removed, Pollard said. “It looks like someone tried to get him on a bike,” she said.

“People have really cared about it,” she said. “It’s moved me.” The statue is at her family’s garage now, awaiting repairs.

“I’m going to welcome him home with a traditional yellow ribbon. We’ll celebrate it when he gets home,” Pollard said. She may have “a little hometown thing” like an ice cream party or similar event for the community when the soldier is reinstated, she said.

“As always, I am very proud of the Altamont Police Department for its excellent investigative work,” said Mayor James Gaughan. “We join with the concerned citizens and veterans to welcome the statue home.”

An officer who answered the police department phone on Monday, but who was not authorized to speak with the press, said that no one had been charged for the theft of the soldier statue.

“We have recovered it, though,” the officer confirmed.

Gaughan said this week that the former police commissioner, Anthony Salerno, would continue to be the press contact for the police department. The contact position was left in limbo for a month after Salerno, who chose not to take the required Civil Service exam to remain commissioner, was named “team leader” by the village board. Oversight of the department was assumed by the mayor. Gaughan this week referred all questions about the statue to Salerno.

Salerno would not speak to The Enterprise about the statue’s return.

“You can refer to my statement to Fox News. It’s on the Internet,” Salerno said.

Cyr, the VFW commander, said yesterday, “Right now, we’re waiting for the police chief to come back.” Referring to Salerno, he went on, “He’s out of town and we need to get the details before we decide what to do about the reward.”

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