Smyrna seeing red over vandalized flags

DOVER – The towns of Smyrna and Clayton were all dressed up for the Fourth of July – draped in the patriotic colors of red, white and blue – after more than 5,600 American flags had been placed in front of houses and businesses throughout the towns.

Then, on Thursday night, 42 of those flags were vandalized along a stretch of Carter Road, sparking the ire of Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten and others in the community.

Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten was incensed that an individual or individuals snapped 42 American flags off at their stems along a stretch of Carter Road on Thursday night. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten was incensed that an individual or individuals snapped 42 American flags off at their stems along a stretch of Carter Road on Thursday night. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

She and volunteers from the Smyrna-Clayton July 4th Association spent Friday morning replacing the flags which were broken at their stems and thrown into lawns and along Carter Road.

“We just put them up [Thursday] and they hadn’t been up 24 hours yet,” Mayor Masten said. “It looks like they took the flags and just snapped them off. I think it was obviously somebody that hadn’t been taught respect and to take pride in your community and take pride in America.”

The Smyrna-Clayton July 4th Association is in charge of the flag program. It sells the first six U.S. flags to residents for $10 and it is one dollar for every flag after that.

The flags are displayed on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. Proceeds from the sale of the flags are used to fund the Fourth of July fireworks display.

Jack Poore, a resident of Smyrna, couldn’t grasp why an individual or individuals would do something such as vandalize an American flag, especially with the most patriotic of all of the holidays looming on Monday.

“As a Vietnam-era veteran I find it hard to understand the mindset of people that don’t respect the country and the flag because during my time of growing up, everybody did,” Mr. Poore said. “It seems like so many kids have been raised up that haven’t been taught.

The Smyrna-Clayton 4th of July Association had placed more than 5,600 American flags in front of residences throughout the communities. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

The Smyrna-Clayton 4th of July Association had placed more than 5,600 American flags in front of residences throughout the communities. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

“To a certain extent my dad in the VFW and the American Legion and the parades, somehow it was instilled in me that you just don’t disrespect the flag and the military and anything to do with it. It makes me wonder about the ones that can and do so freely, how they were not raised with respect.”

Cheryl Thornton was on her front porch straightening up her flags on West Commerce Street Friday afternoon. She had one of her flags stolen from in front of her house Thursday night.

“I think it’s really sad that you try to be patriotic and somebody comes along and vandalizes,” she said.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I guess they just don’t have anything better to do. I guess somebody was just trying to be mischievous, which is a shame.”

Mayor Masten said she reported the vandalism of the flags to the Smyrna Police Department. She said there had been a similar incident last year when somebody stole some of the flags.

She said the vandalism won’t be able to put a damper on Smyrna’s Independence Day celebration, believed to be the longest running observance in the state.

“This is a wonderful community to live in. I was born here and raised here and I love it,” Mayor Masten said. “But this should not be happening. It all starts at home and a lot of kids nowadays are kind of raising themselves. You’ve got to have guidance. I was taught respect, accountability and responsibility, so I take it very seriously.”

Mayor Masten and the Smyrna-Clayton July 4th Association volunteers already have their next steps with the flags mapped out.

“We’ll go out and pick all of the flags up and store them on Tuesday,” she said. “Then we’ll do it all over again on Veterans Day.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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