UNIONTOWN (KDKA) — Community members are upset after thieves damaged or stole more than 50 American flags in Uniontown, Fayette County.

The flags line several streets for the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations there.

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Red stripes spaced with white, 50 stars on a field of blue – it’s a design monumental to Americans – at least to most Americans.

“What they’re doing is just cutting them off the poles and letting them lay on the ground,” said Mike Gaydos, of American Legion Post 57.

Over the past two weeks, officials say more than 50 flags and poles have been stolen or damaged.

Keith Hillings and the local Elks Club place the flags along Gallatin Avenue.

“I rescue them. As we see them getting bent and broken, we go down the street, throw them on our trucks and we rescue them,” he said.

“It’s a shame. Every time we put up the flags, we lose flags,” added Gaydos.

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American Legion Post 57 began the flag project in Uniontown 15 years ago.

“Originally we had 850; we’re probably down to 450 right now,” he said.

Getting donations to pay for replacements in a tough economy isn’t easy. On Fayette Street alone, officials say 21 flags were recently vandalized.

“The city police have caught a couple of young teenagers this weekend – with the flags in possession,” said Gaydos “What they [ought to] do – put them in boot camp; put them in the Marines, send them over to fight for our country. Let them learn what this flag means.”

Despite picking up the teens, the investigation into the flag vandalism continues, and now a $200 reward is being offered.

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