Riverside, CA – A memorial on a highway overpass of 13 U.S. flags to honor the U.S. service members killed in Kabul on Aug. 26 was vandalized on Labor Day.
Riverside police said that an observant passerby on Sept. 6 noticed that the American flags and one U.S. Marine Corps flag that had been displayed on the fence of the Ivy Street overpass above the 91 Freeway were shredded, FOX News reported.
A community Facebook newsgroup contacted the Riverside police department and brought the vandalism to their attention.
Resident Steve Johnson told KNBC that he noticed the damaged flags and reported it to the police.
“This is not ok,” Johnson said. “This is the United States of America, and the flag means something to us.”
Riverside police said in a post to their own official Facebook page that two citizens had helped them carefully remove the damaged flags from the fence.
The department said their post that the remains of the flags would be turned over to local Boy Scout Troop 703 for proper retirement.
Community members gathered to work together to replace the flags on the fence, KNBC reported.
Flags honoring the 13 American heroes who died in Afghanistan are vandalized. As Riverside police try to identify the vandal, members of the community take action. #NBC4 @NBCLA pic.twitter.com/oKYS6JFfAZ
— Tony Shin (@TonyNBCLA) September 7, 2021
Riverside Police Public Information Officer Monique Cisneros, who has two children serving in the military, called the vandalism hurtful and disheartening.
“No one is allowed to destroy another person’s property,” Officer Cisneros said. “With this being a memorial, we are honoring the 13 that lost their lives tragically. And every mom that has a service member — it strikes us deep in the gut.”
Eleven U.S. Marines, one Navy sailor, and one Army soldier were killed when suicide bombers attacked a gate at the airport in Kabul during the mass evacuation after the fall of that city to the Taliban in late August, FOX News reported.
Eighteen more marines were wounded in the attack that left hundreds of Afghan civilians wounded and dead.
Ten of the victims – a Navy corpsman and nine marines – were based out of Camp Pendleton in North San Diego County.
Three of the fallen marines were hometown heroes, KTLA reported.
U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, 20, was from Norco, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, 20, was from Rancho Cucamonga, and U.S. Marine Corporal Hunter Lopez, 22, was from Indio.
Police are asking for help from the public to identify the disrespectful vandals, KTLA reported.
Vandalized flags honoring the 13 soldiers killed in Kabul. This is in Riverside, CA on the fence to the Ivy St overpass & 91 Freeway. DISGUSTING!! pic.twitter.com/J4J54hcWtB
— 🇺🇸ProudArmyBrat (@leslibless) September 8, 2021
“At this point, we don’t have any suspect description but it’s obvious the flags were intentionally damaged,” Riverside police posted to its Facebook page. “If you have any information as to who vandalized these flags placed on this freeway overpass to honor the 13 Fallen Service Members, please contact our Property Crimes Unit at (951) 353-7955.”