Military veterans group offers to replace flags vandalized in Oceanside neighborhood

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - A World War II veteran whose flag was vandalized broke down in tears Thursday after 10News delivered an offer to him.

Surveillance video captured the vandals spray painting one of three American flags in a senior community in Oceanside on the night of July 18.

Written on one of the flags were the words "(expletive) you, USA."

Another flag belonged to 91-year-old World War II veteran Virgil Hardin, who said, "A lot of people gave their life for that flag."

The story on the vandalism was posted on 10News.com, and viewed by Marine veteran Jack Harkins.

"I will admit, it made me angry," said Harkins.

Harkins is an executive board member of the United Veterans Council, a coalition of hundreds of veteran groups.

Nearly two year ago, a similar incident moved him to help Clyde Kellogg -- another WWII veteran -- get his medals replaced after they were stolen.

"When someone does an injustice or insult to one Marine, they do it to all of us," Harkins said in a 2012 interview.

This time, it wasn't medals taken, but flags desecrated.

"It's unfair. It's not right, and it will not stand," said Harkins.

Harkins said  his group intends to replace all three flags.

10News took that offer and brought it to Hardin.

"I think that's fine because I haven't bought a new one yet," said Hardin.

As 10News asked more questions, the meaning of the offer sank in and Hardin became more emotional.

He said he could have bought his own flag, but this is much more special.

"It'll mean that there's other people besides me that's interested in that flag and what it stands for. Somebody else is thinking about it too, not just me," said Hardin.

10News learned one of the other neighbors that had his flag vandalized is Army veteran Michael Rank.

"It's wonderful that they're offering to replace the flag. It makes me happy to know a flag will be back up," said Rank.

The perpetrators, two males and a female, appeared to be Hispanics between 16 and 20 years old, dressed in dark-colored clothing. The boys or young men were wearing baseball caps -- one with a Baltimore Orioles logo on it, the other with a rendition of a marijuana leaf on the left side.

Anyone with information about the crimes was asked to call Oceanside police at 760-435-4682.

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