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21 American Flags Stolen From Veterans’ Graves And Burned On Fourth Of July

caitlyn.clancey 11 Jul 2019

Employees of a South Carolina cemetery were shocked and dismayed to discover 21 American flags had been stolen from the graves of fallen veterans and then burned on the Fourth of July, CNN reported.

Doug McDougald, owner of The McDougald Funeral Home, said nothing like this has ever been seen in the cemetery's 85 years of operation.

Flag burning or desecration first became an issue in the country following the Civil War.

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In 1968, Congress passed the Federal Flag Desecration Law following an incident in Central Park where peace activists burned American flags as a means of protesting the Vietnam War.

This new law effectively banned any public displays of "contempt" against the flag.

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However, in 1989, a seriously divided Supreme Court upheld the rights of protesters to burn the flag.

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In the controversial Texas v. Johnson case, the Court voted 5-4 in favor of Gregory Lee Johnson, a protester who had burned the flag and who was deemed to have been exercising his rights as per the First Amendment.

If a person decides to burn a flag to express their freedom of speech, and it doesn't cause any type of harm or pose a hazard to the public, this is legal.

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While burning one American flag may be seen as a protest, there doesn't appear to be any justifiable reason for burning 21 from the graves of veterans.

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However, this is exactly what happened at McDougald Funeral Home on the Fourth of July. According to owner Doug, his grandfather first began the tradition of placing flags along the road to the veterans section of the cemetery.

"We've put flags out for as long as I can remember," he said. "We've never had a problem."

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On July 3, a total of 30 flags, measuring 4 feet by 6 feet, were placed in the ground to honor the fallen military members.

McDougald Funeral Home

The flags were last seen in tact on the Fourth of July. Then, on the morning of July 5, cemetery employees arrived to work and discovered 21 eight-foot poles lying in a pile on cemetery grounds, along with the charred remains of 21 American flags.

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One cemetery staff worker shared the troubling news to the public on Facebook.

McDougald Funeral Home

"On the night of July the 4th, someone pulled up 21 American Flags that lined the roadway to our Veteran's Mausoleum and had the nerve to burn them, yes burn them, on the lawn in the cemetery right in front of where our Veteran's and their families rest in peace," the post reads.

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None of the veterans' graves were vandalized or desecrated themselves in any way during the incident.

McDougald Funeral Home

The incident report values the damaged property at $1,260. But Doug said it's not the act itself that has everyone feeling hurt, but rather the symbolism.

"We can replace the flags," he told Fox Carolina, "it's just the hurt of those families who have had people buried in there and to find they had burned 21 flags, it really disappoints you."

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People have spoken out against the incident and are sharing their disgust and outrage.

McDougald Funeral Home

"This really saddens me that people are stooping to this level of disrespect for our veterans," one Facebook user wrote. "I hope and pray that they find the person(s) responsible for this."

In an interview with WSPA local resident Kristi Pulliam said, "I would like an explanation. I mean why would you do that, degrade or disrespect our veterans?"

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Doug said he's contacted other cemeteries but none had reported experiencing the same acts of desecration.

McDougald Funeral Home

Now, an investigation is underway to find the person or persons behind the burning of the flags. Staff say there's no surveillance footage available showing whoever torched the flags.

Anderson County deputies are looking into the incident and are asking anyone with information to call Crimestoppers.

h/t: CNN

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