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ANDERSON, Calif.- The American flag that normally flies outside Camping World in Anderson was stolen and vandalized Monday night.
The Anderson Police Department returned the flag to Camping World after finding it draped over a Cottonwood school with graffiti in some of the white stripes.
Someone cut the internal wire of the flag pole, causing the flag to collapse and dent parts of the businesses' roof. The flag weighs hundreds of pounds, totally destroying its own counterweight and lighting on its way down.
The person that stole the flag also left notes on the front door of Camping World to find the next morning. They said something about a Cottonwood school taking their American flag and a lack of crosswalks on Gas Point Road as their reason for stealing the flag.
Jason Danielson and Sean Freyne are both veterans and work at Camping World. To them, the flag being stolen felt personal.
"To have someone who may or may not have experienced what we did, to do something to that flag in that nature is extremely personal and hurtful more so than someone coming up to me and punching me in the face," said Danielson. "I think I’m more hurt by this than any kind of physical violence that could happen to me."
Danielson told me that almost half of the staff at Camping World are veterans, but thinks the flag was only targeted because of its size and prominence in the area.
After posting the flag and notes on Facebook, Danielson and Freyne are thankful for all the community support they've received.
"I’ve had people offer to do a fundraiser," Freyne said. "We’re not looking for any financial support on this, we’re going to get that flag back up in the air and we’re going to fly it high, we’re going to fly it proudly, and we’re going to pray that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again."
Freyne told Action News Now that it could cost up to $5,000 to replace the flag and pole. The flag itself cost almost $2,000 and the pole would require a specialist to come which could cost up to $3,000.
The flag is brand new for Camping World, flying only for two weeks before it was stolen. Freyne and Danielson hope they can clean the graffiti so they won't have to replace it.
The Anderson Police Department is treating this incident as felony vandalism and theft for the flag.