Someone is stealing American flags in Bristow, and it’s costing the community a lot of money and hurting the community’s patriotic pride, veterans say.
U.S. Flags line Bristow's Main Street for more than a mile. But just this year, 15 have been stolen, five this week. The American Legion members who volunteer their time building and hanging the flags say they're fed up with the theft.
The American Flag is a symbol of freedom.
“It's just a special symbol,” U.S. Army veteran and American Legion Post 126 Commander Charles Stark said.
It is a sign of pride and patriotism.
“It lights up my life… it does,” U.S. Navy veteran and Post 126 Second Vice Commander Roy McCollum said.
McCollum, Stark and John Bloxom are three of nearly 130 Post 126 American Legion veterans.
“Veterans helping veterans, community state and nation,” Army vet Bloxom said. “And we don't waiver from that. That's what we're here for.
One of the ways the group gives back is by maintaining and hanging 90 American flags around Bristow.
“We all were willing to fight and to protect that flag,” Stark said.
Now veterans on American soil and in their hometown, they're fighting to protect the flag once again.
“I was angry,” Bloxom said.
On Wednesday, the group says five flags were stolen.
“If you're stealing an American flag, you're dishonoring your own country,” Bloxom said. “That's our flag; it's what we represent. It represents the soldiers and the citizens of this community.”
At the base of each flag is a place for six brass name plaques.
Citizens pay $35 a year to have their veteran honored. Money made from the plaques goes toward paying for the $50 flags.
Then Post 126 buys all the materials, builds them and hangs for each holiday, patriotic or not.
“I'm proud of everything we do,” McCollum said.
The men say they would have gladly given the thieves a flag, if they'd only asked.
“After all the veterans have done for them and then they come take the flags down around the plaques, I think they're desecrating our flag,” McCollum said. “I don't they should.”
Bristow Patrol Sergeant Gary McFarland says there are no security cameras in the area where the flags were taken and few leads. The hopes is someone in the community may have spotted the thieves in action.
“A lot of the times we rely on the citizens and what they see so they can give us information,” McFarland said.
McFarland says the thieves could be charged with five counts larceny and a 500 dollar fine for each flag stolen.
The American Legion members said they would like to start locking the flags into place. That, of course, would take some additional work and would cost more money.
If you would like to donate to help the American Legion replace the stolen flags in Bristow, you can send your contribution to:
American Legion Post 126
131 W. 8th Ave.
Bristow, OK 74010