Many longtime residents say the city is heading back to the ’70s as crime and grime increase, and now you can count Queens’ Vietnam veterans among them, though for an additional reason uniquely painful to them.

Sometime early this week a heartless, America-hating vandal graffitied the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park with phrases including “baby killers” — something those who served in country were called by radicals when they returned to the States 50 or so years ago. They were also called “fallen souls,” though that’s probably a more apt description of the vandal than the 371 Queens residents killed in the war whose names are inscribed in the memorial. The tagger also drew swastikas (poorly) and asserted that God performs oral sex, something that would flabbergast as well as disgust the faithful.

Police are investigating the case as a hate crime. It comes on the heels of “Free Palestine” being spray-painted across a U.S. flag that Vietnam vets put up in Glendale and the graffiti vandalism of dozens of cars in Astoria. A suspect in the latter case has been charged. We hope that he and the other perpetrators soon will pay the highest legal price for thinking their free speech rights extend to such hateful destruction. They do not.

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