GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - A Florida business owner wants answers after two American flags were stolen from her restaurant. She says she replaced the flags only to have another flag vandalized a few days later, reports WCJB.
“Marion County is very patriotic and it really stuns me this happened here,” said Mary Self.
Self’s disbelief started on the Fourth of July when two flags outside her Ocala Beach restaurant disappeared overnight.
“My thoughts were maybe some kids were going to a July fourth party and wanted flags. A lot of kids fly flags from the back of their trucks and maybe somebody didn’t have the money to go buy one," she said.
Vandals struck again sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning.
When Self came into work Saturday morning, she expected to see the two flags. They had been hanging here for 8 years, marking the entrance to her restaurant. Instead, one of the flags was nowhere to be found. She said when she started looking around the area, she found the flagpole shoved into a drainage grate and the flag in the dirt with a clear footprint where someone had stomped on it.
“It had been ripped off the pole and stabbed with a knife several times and stomped into the mud. We had had quite a bit of rain and the mud is what I noticed all over and footprints,” said Self.
Self says she has cameras facing the area where the flags were, but it was too far away and dark to see anything. She filed a police report which could result in a criminal mischief charge if the vandals are caught.
Self says she doesn’t have anything to say to whoever did this. She just wants to make sure they never do it to her or anybody else again.
“The second we found out the flag was down, she had a new one up in hours," said longtime family friend Cliff Murphy, a regular at the Beach Ocala. "So I think she’s sending a good message to them. You’re not going to back down, so she’s not backing down and I agree I’d be doing the same thing. In fact, I’d be putting up more.”
“I’m not going to be scared. You’re not going to scare me. People suggested I move my flags. I’m not moving my flags. I’m not taking them down. I’m not changing anything I do, and I’ll just keep buying flags," Self added.
The damaged flag had to be hung to dry in order for it to be properly folded and retired. Self says she has a friend who is a member of the U.S. Marine Corps who has agreed to honorably retire the flag for her.