Vandals steal, damage flags in Perryville

June 15, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

PERRYVILLE - It wasn't the way Arthur Crain wanted to observe Flag Day.

The World War II veteran rather would have been admiring Old Glory waving in the breeze along Perryville's streets. Instead, Crain spent Monday morning repairing and replacing flags that recently had been damaged by vandals or taken from along U.S. 150 near downtown.

"These flags mean a lot to me because I know the sacrifices it's taken to keep them flying," said Crain, 79, who fought at the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. "You don't know how bad this hurts veterans."

Crain is a member of American Legion Battlefield Post 301, which donated and has long maintained about 80 American flags that fly along main Perryville thoroughfares during holidays and special events. The flags, attached to wooden staffs, are affixed to receptacles placed in the city's sidewalks in the 1950s, Crain said.


"It's our civic duty to do something for community, state and nation," he said of the post's flag program. "We get citations for patriotism all the time for this. It's really beautiful when there's a good breeze and they're all blowing the same direction."

Over the years, flags occasionally have disappeared or been tampered with, but Crain said it's gotten worse recently. Last week, six of the wooden flag poles were broken off and the banners tossed into nearby yards. Four others are missing.

Someone drove over large American flag

Before that, someone cut the rope used to raise a large, 10-foot-by-15-foot American flag, put the flag on the ground and drove over it, and also stole a large, black Missing in Action flag from the same pole.

"We've had this kind of thing happen before, but it's becoming like an epidemic now," he said.

Perryville Police Chief Vernon Withers said it's been difficult to catch the flag vandals because they act late at night when no one's around.

"We don't have any leads yet. Nobody's seen anything," Withers said. "It's probably just young juveniles getting into some criminal mischief trying to tear something up."

Crain also said he doesn't believe the vandalism is the work of anyone expressly trying to make an anti-American statement. But he does believe that whoever is messing with Perryville's flags is old enough to know better.

"I think it's someone old enough to know what they're doing. These kids know what a flag is. We just need to get them to respect it and know what it stands for," he said.

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