Vandals have been desecrating American flags in a small Texas town, in many cases destroying flags flying on the homes of currently-serving members of the armed services or U.S. veterans.
Seven flags have been torched on their flagpoles or torn down and incinerated in driveways in Weatherford, Texas, according to CBS
. But so far, police are clueless about the identity of the vandals.
"It's really unsettling," Karmann Goff, whose two sons are serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, told KHOU TV
. "If you wanna go buy one and burn it, that is fine, but don't come and steal one on private property and desecrate the American flag."
"It's like losing a loved one," victim Linda Gilbert told NBC
. "It's the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life. We all have members of our families that have served and died fighting for this flag and I can't understand why anyone would want to destroy it.
"I can't talk without crying."
Capt. Greg Lance of the Weatherford Police Department said, "With this many and the way they're laying out the flags and burning them, it seems like they're trying to make a statement."
Weatherford Fire Marshal Bob Hopkins told CBS, "We had one woman whose two sons are serving in Afghanistan. She was very upset because that flag, for a lot of people, resembles their pride in their nation, their home, everything they believe in."
Weatherford, a city of about 25,000 located 20 miles from Fort Worth, bills itself as the peach capital of Texas and is the county seat of Parker County.
If caught, the vandals would be charged with arson. Burning flags remains a legal act, despite several congressional attempts to ban the practice, and even a move to pass a constitutional amendment. In Texas v. Johnson in 1989, the Supreme Court held that a law in Texas that banned burning the flag was unconstitutional, according to USHistory.org
However, Hopkins told NBC, "We take it very serious because arson, of course, is a very serious crime, and we don't want this to escalate."
Weatherford residents have reacted with anger. Gilbert immediately replaced her flag, and put up six more.
Resident and victim Linda Freiley told NBC that her flag was burned on the flagpole in her front yard.
"They just lowered it enough to where they could light it," she said. "I cried. I cried. My husband was in the military for 30 years and fought for that flag."
Mike Freiley, a 30-year Navy veteran, said, "It burnt and melted right there on the pole. Yeah, it makes me really angry."
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