SALISBURY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A group of veterans in Salisbury are heartbroken after a flag display they put out for Memorial Day has been continuously vandalized.

Veterans Ronnie Smith and Hercules Shannon, other veterans, and boy scouts planted nearly 1,000 flags at the Patriots Flag Concourse at City Park on May 20. They planned to keep the flags in place through Memorial Day.

However, each day since Friday, every time they’ve come to the park to inspect the flags, more and more have been snapped, defaced, and thrown about the park’s fields and creeks.

“It hurts. I love my country. I lost a lot of friends. Their names are on the Vietnam wall here in this park. And I honor those friends every year with a flag,” said Smith. “I would estimate as many as 300 were destroyed or damaged or defaced.”

Shannon personally purchased most of the flags and said he’d continue buying more if needed.

“I do it from my heart because I’m a veteran myself, and the veterans, we’re like brothers. We’re family,” he said. “I love it, and I think I’m going to continue to do it for the rest of my life.”

In a statement from the Salisbury Police Department, Lt. TJ Crews told Queen City News:

“Salisbury Police is investigating the vandalism that occurred at City Park over the Memorial Day weekend.

It’s unfortunate that the suspect(s) demonstrated little respect for our fallen servicemen and women by disturbing the American flag display in the park’s flag concourse area.

Anyone with information Lt. Crews at (704) 216-7545.”

This is the fifth year Smith and Shannon have planted flags at the park. This year, they helped other veterans and hundreds of local boy scouts plant 17,000 flags at Salisbury’s National Cemetery.

The vandalism has broken their spirits, but not enough to stop them from continuing to honor fallen vets.

“I believe in supporting our veterans, and I am dedicated to the veteran’s programs here in Rowan County,” said Smith. “We plan to come back with flags next year.”