ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Veterans Memorial Circle, inside the roundabout at N. Main and Auburn Street, was heavily damaged by a reckless driver over the Memorial Day weekend.

Volunteers worked diligently to beautify the roundabout ahead of the holiday weekend, but that work was destroyed when a driver crashed through the roundabout on Sunday.

“Somebody plowed through and they went through the end cap and hit that wall, and took out a corner of it,” said Army veteran Ernie Redfern, co-chair of the group Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle.

“We were disappointed because we had worked very, very hard to get all of this done by Memorial Day,” Redfern said. “We planted 3,850 petunias in that circle, and that’s a lot.”

In total, volunteers planted 13,600 flowers in the traffic circle this year, at a cost of around $13,000; paid for through community donations.

Redfern and his wife Helen are semi-retirees who moved to Rockford in 2019 and became co-chairs of the Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle group, which revitalized and re-dedicated the circle that same year.

The roundabout was constructed in 2013 and was dedicated as Veterans Memorial Circle in honor of 527 soldiers buried at the neighboring Greenwood Cemetery. A Civil War soldier statue that originally adorned the roundabout was moved downtown.

The roundabout became overgrown until the volunteer neighborhood group was formed.

The Redferns said the damage caused on Sunday made them angry.

“I was just stunned, and I thought, ‘This is the last straw.’ We need to hold people accountable. We’ve made this roundabout prettier. We have to do everything we can to make it safer,” Helen said.

The Redferns say they are frustrated at the lack of respect for the memorial, built in honor of U.S. servicemen and women who have died in the armed forces.

“We don’t feel that this should be a veterans memorial if it’s not fully respected,” she continued. “We can beautify it, we can add the flowers. That’s only part of it. We need to show our veterans that we care.”

But, they believe many Rockford drivers are clueless when it comes to navigating a roundabout.

“Obviously, the vehicle doing this damage was not traveling at the posted speed limit – 15 MPH,” the pair wrote on Facebook.

“The benefits of roundabouts are wide-reaching. It’s not the roundabout. It’s the drivers. We need to hold them accountable, and educate them,” Helen said.

The roundabout has seen its fair share of accidents over the years.

On Facebook, the pair wrote: “We are now at the point where these government entities must either address the safety issues proactively or accept defeat and grind the words VETERANS MEMORIAL CIRCLE from each of the monument walls, remove the four plaques on the walls, and officially decommission it as a veterans’ memorial. Let it continue to be the demolition derby it has become without reference to the service and sacrifice of our veterans.”

The Redferns say they have donated an educational book called Rhonda Loves Roundabouts, on how to drive through a roundabout, to local libraries, churches, schools, and childcare centers.

The City of Rockford says it is assessing the damage to the roundabout, but has not yet determined how much it will cost to repair or how long it will take.