NAUGATUCK — Veterans were dismayed Saturday to discover that flags they planned to place on the graves of their brethren had been stolen.
Members of VFW Post 1946 replace the American flags on the graves of 1,800 veterans buried at St. James Cemetery every six months, just in time for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, according to John DeBisschop, chairman of the Naugatuck Veterans Council.
Saturday morning, several VFW members had placed boxes of flags in different sections of the graveyard in anticipation of the biannual work, according to DeBisschop.
After replacing the flags in the first section, they crested the hill to the next section of the cemetery and discovered four boxes were missing, he said.
At first, they thought someone from the cemetery association had picked them up, but no one from the association was working there that day.
“While they were in the cemetery, the flags were basically stolen right out from underneath them,” DeBisschop said. “Someone must’ve driven through the cemetery and picked them up and left.”
The veterans reported the theft of 576 flags worth $460 to police, DeBisschop said.
DeBisschop said he has no idea what anyone could do with that many flags.
“I just seems completely random and senseless,” he said.
The veterans were able to replace the flags in time for Veterans Day because they had purchased the entire year’s worth ahead of time, but DeBisschop said they will need to buy more flags to replace them for Memorial Day.
DeBisschop said about 3,000 veterans are buried in eight cemeteries in Naugatuck and each of the town’s veterans’ organizations, VFW Post 1946, American Legion Post 17, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 11 and Catholic War Veterans Post 708, is in charge of a different cemetery.
St. James is the biggest among those, and DeBisschop said replacing the flags takes several full days of work. Volunteers from City Hill Middle School help one day, and VFW members finish the job on the weekend, he said.
DeBisschop said regularly replacing the flags honors the nation’s symbol.
“We don’t want to see an old, worn, torn flag. It’s very important for us to keep them flying over our veterans’ graves to honor the service that they gave to our country,” DeBisschop said.
Naugatuck Patch reported DeBisschop received calls Wednesday, the day after the news website first published the story, from people seeking to donate money for new flags. According to the Naugatuck Patch, donations can be made out to the “Naugatuck Veterans Council” and mailed to P.O. Box 226, Naugatuck, CT 06770.