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Vandals Destroy Flag Memorial

By Laura Ziegler

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kcur/local-kcur-649458.mp3

Kansas City, Missouri – Two days after vandals destroyed the flag memorial at 96th and State Line, a group of 30 or so veterans and friends were out to help restore the flags to their original symmetry. Laura Ziegler reports.

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By Veterans Day, the display along Don and Anne Bender's white picket fence had 3,660 flags in neat rows,one for each fallen soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vietnam vets had been there each day of the last week, cleaning it up for the holiday. But overnight Saturday, someone destroyed the display and hung a sign that read murderers on the fence.

Vietnam Vet Andy Enders was among the first to see the damage.

Andy Enders: "I got here Sunday morning, and I cried most of the day. There were more flags down and stomped on than there were up. The only we thing we could do is get all the American flags off the ground and up for Veterans Day."

It wasn't long before the veterans had help. Strangers had been calling and leaving notes at the Benders house since the flags went in on the fourth of July, but Anne Bender says this was different.

Anne Bender: "People just pulling in thedriveway who were upset about the vandalism and wanting to help, some here on Sunday , left names and phone numbers, said call us, some kids from our Home School group, and a few veterans . But the vets worked so hard last week, its' just such a shame.

Quin Brady and a group of his friends were on and off their knees, digging and measuring, enjoying the beautiful day. The handsome 15 year old is part of the same home schooling group as the Benders kids. He says home schoolers find their curriculum in the real world, and in this experience there are lessons.

Quin Brady: "Well, basically just that it's good to not wallow .... that were setting the flags back up when they were broken down, good to do that rather than pack it all in immediately and stop whole project. So I guess that's the lesson, bouncing back, basically.

Annette Pearson: "My name is Annette Pearson, I served in operation Iraqi freedom in Fallujah from November 2005 to August 2006."

Seargent Pearson had been measuring flags with plumbing pipe while her mother -in-law watched the little boy she left as an infant while she was serving overseas. Now, she was sitting on the grass, using a Sharpie to write the names of some of her fallen colleagues and friends on the flags.

Seargent Pearson: "Oh god, it means so much to me. It hits close to home, especially when you've lost friends over there. And it means so much now that someone was disrespectful enough not to understand what their freedom means that they would come out here and destroy this."

Anne Bender said it was unclear exactly how the flag display will evolve. The vandals broke more half the flags, and volunteers have come forward with some more practical ideas. If the display changes entirely, she says, it will be only after those flags that remain, have been replaced to their original design.

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