Mural honoring slain Rainier soldier vandalized a second time

RAINIER, Wash. -- The father of a young soldier killed in Iraq wants to know who defaced a mural memorializing his son for a second time.

Sgt. Justin Norton was killed after he stepped on an improvised explosive device. A mural honoring Norton stands alongside busy Highway 507 in Rainier.

But vandals got to the mural and now one blotch of green spay paint covers the word "hero"; the rest spells out "war criminal."

It's also not the first time vandals have hit the mural.

"I just wish people would show a little bit more respect," said Gary Warnock, Norton's adoptive father.

Warnock remembers the day Norton died during combat in Iraq and the day friends and family created the very first mural of Norton on the train trestle.

"He belongs to the town of Rainier, basically," Warnock said. "He's like their son as well."

So when somebody smeared the mural with black paint two years ago, the town rallied and painted a new one.

Tusday night, somebody defaced Norton's memorial, again.

"We would prefer that he be here physically with us, but that's not the case," Warnock said.

Warnock says it's been difficult over the years not having his son here, and he clings to every memory he can.

"I wear his dog tags everyday, so... you can't take that," Warnock said.

Nobody can take away Norton's mural either. Plans are already in the works to paint another one -- and another one after that if they have to. They will not stop honoring Justin.

"They may have punched us in the gut but they didn't knock us out," Warnock said. "We're going to go back and make it right again and give it back to Rainier the way it's supposed to be."

A passerby witnessed the vandal and gave a description and license plate to police. Investigators have since identified a suspect but have yet to capture him.

Meanwhile, the family says they understand people have opinions about the war in Iraq, but ask please just don't write them there, and leave their son alone.