Four disabled veterans left a Marine Corps ball in Houston on Saturday to find their truck windows shattered and belongings stolen.
A handgun, a purse and a laptop were included among the missing possessions.
All of the victims had disabled veteran license plates and all drove trucks, Houston TV news channel KPRC 2 first reported.
Sgt. 1st Class Mike Nasche, an Army reservist with the 120th Infantry Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, was among those targeted. Nasche, who also has worked as a veterans' advocate, attended Saturday’s event with his fiancée and a Marine he knew.
“I’m really tied into the veteran network here in Houston, and a good friend of mine bought a table at the Marine Corps ball and invited a few non-Marines,” Nasche told Marine Corps Times on Thursday. “They only had one parking lot open, and it was pretty full already. The parking that was available was all the way at the edge against a feeder road.”
Nasche said he has knee, back, neck and ankle issues after serving as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne infantry Division.
When Nasche and his fiancée left the Houston Marriott South after 9:00 p.m., they found the rear driver’s side window of his truck smashed in, shards of glass littering the backseat. He suspects the thieves were interrupted when entering his truck, since many of his possessions were still there.
The Houston Police Department said a total of four vehicles were broken into.
“If you have a disabled veterans license plate, the likelihood of having toys, tools, or weapons goes up even more than if you just had a nice truck,” Nasche said.
“It is the lowest of the low," Nicole Aguais, Nasche’s fiancé told KRPC 2. "It’s one thing when you harm civilians, it’s another thing to stoop to the level of targeting veterans on a veteran-specific event four days before Veterans Day.”
The auto theft division of the Houston Police Department is investigating the incident but currently has no suspects or information about the perpetrator’s vehicle, Houston police told Marine Corps Times.
Nasche and Aguais initially were upset by the Marriott’s lack of response to the incident, telling local news that there were no on-duty security personnel or roving patrols of the parking lot.
The couple eventually spoke to the hotel’s general manager, a fellow veteran, who assured them that their concerns about security would be brought before hotel management.
The Houston Marriott South did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Saturday’s ball, put on by the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Southeast Texas, was one of the few 245th birthday celebrations to take place for the Marine Corps, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nasche said attendees bided by public health guidelines but didn’t let them stop a good time.
Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he's also in the Army ROTC program.