A part-time resident of the Methow Valley has offered a $1,000 reward for the return of the two WWII patches recently stolen from a commemorative display at the Methow Valley Community Center. The display honors the service of paratrooper Robert Van Klinken, who graduated from Twisp High School and was killed in the war.
Ed Gutekanst, whose father also served in WWII, said he was moved by Van Klinken’s history in the valley and his war-time service.
“That was a different time, when people from all walks of life dropped what they were doing and did extraordinary things, and many made the supreme sacrifice,” Gutekanst said. The vandalism of the memorial and theft of the historic patches were a sacrilege, he said.
Younger generations may not understand the impact of WWII, Gutekanst said. But people make mistakes and impulsive decisions, he said. He hopes that the reward will spur the return of the patches to restore Van Klinken’s honor.
The stolen patches commemorate Van Klinken’s service as a D-Day paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division and with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Van Klinken was killed just three days after his unit parachuted into the Netherlands.
The memorial display is the culmination of decades of research by Chuck Borg, who knew Van Klinken’s family in the valley when he was a boy.
If the patches don’t resurface, Gutekanst will contribute the money to a secure display case that preserves Van Klinken’s honor. “He deserves the homage,” Gutekanst said.