October 24, 2021

Community replaces stolen American flags

14 flags stolen; 20 donated to Cortland man

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

David Jones of Tompkins Street, Cortland, plants one of the flags Friday that donors left for him after he woke up Tuesday morning to find most of the flags he set up for Independence Day had been stolen.

David Jones went into his house Thursday morning to grab a quick cup of coffee. When he went back outside, a large American flag was draped over his porch gate.

It was just one of more than 20 flags the Vietnam War-era veteran had gotten over a two-day span after 14 flags were stolen from his lawn.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” he said Friday, tearing up. “It’s a good community. I wasn’t thinking or expecting people to replace my flags.”

But people did.

Jones, who served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1972, has been placing American flags on his lawn for Memorial Day and Independence Day for about four years.

About 9 p.m. Tuesday, and his wife placed 18 small American flags along their lawn at Tompkins and York streets.
When he woke up at 6 a.m. Wednesday, all but four flags were gone.

He said the flags are a way to honor his father, who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and his friend Eric Prior, who was in the military and recently died.

Jones replaced the 14 that were taken that day, but when people heard about what happened, flags of all sizes started showing up on Jones’ porch.

“I wish people would let me thank them,” he said.

Jones filed a report with city police Wednesday morning and Lt. Michael Strangeway said Friday the investigation is ongoing but he hasn’t heard anything more about the incident.

Jones had said he wasn’t looking to prosecute anyone and he didn’t want a security system installed like some people had suggested.

“I still have faith in humanity,” he said.

However, Jones said he now takes the flags off his lawn every night around 11 p.m. as a precaution. That’s OK, though, he said it’s proper etiquette to not have flags out past dusk unless they are illuminated and the street light near Jones’ house just won’t do it for him.

Jones placed two more flags near his front porch Friday, but he has so many that he has to figure out what to do with them.
“I want to do something to put them to good use,” he said. “I’ll either go to the (American) Legion or someplace.”

As Jones admired his yard from the corner of the street, a woman jogged by and huffed out, “Your flags look beautiful, sir.”

A smile crossed his face.

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” he said. “I love our country. The flag is very emotional for me.”