A veteran has returned a missing sword taken from a statue of a Revolutionary War general. The man told the head of the Westfield, Massachusetts, historical commission that he stole the item 40 years ago. He’s regretted taking it ever since.
General William Shepard was born near Westfield in the 1730s. He fought as a militia man and soldier in multiple wars, including the Revolutionary War. The town of Westfield erected a bronze statue of him in 1919, according to the Springfield Republican newspaper.
Cindy P. Gaylord, the chair of Westfield’s Historical Commission, says a man recently contacted Westfield City Hall. The man claimed he had stolen the sword from the town’s statue in 1980.
Thinking the sword was gone forever, a local sculptor had helped to replace the stolen sword years ago. An anonymous donor paid for the work.
Gaylord showed mercy to the long-ago thief. She agreed to give the man anonymity—if he returned the bronze sword to the city. She arranged for him and his wife to drop the piece of history off at her home. The returned sword will likely be preserved by a local museum, according to the newspaper.
“He had a great deal of shame and remorse,” Gaylord told the newspaper. “He is a veteran and told me the fact that he did this to another soldier troubled him.”
The man admitted that he and a group of friends had gone out on the town while he was enrolled as a student at Westfield State University. He and the others got drunk. Having lost control of their sound minds, they decided to steal the sword.
The man, who according to Gaylord was a “great big bear of a guy,” says he wrenched the object loose with his bare hands. When the thieves were sober the next morning, they realized what they had done. But they weren’t sure how to return the sword without facing consequences, so they kept quiet. They paid a high price anyway: 40 years of guilt.
The man wants people to know about his story—and the shame he’s felt. Gaylord says he wants “to remind people that something you do in your youth could haunt you for the rest of your life.”
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. — Proverbs 28:13
(Cindy Gaylord holds the original sword from the statue of General William Shepard in Westfield, Massachusetts. Don Treeger/The Republican via AP)