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Nearly a dozen flags stolen from massive Fourth of July display in Johnson County

MERRIAM, Kan. -- Before every Independence Day, dozens of volunteers coordinate an enormous array of 1,500 American flags along Merriam and Johnson drives to honor area veterans and fallen first responders. And every year, including this year, someone steals some of those American Flags.

“It is truly a remembrance of those who have served or have lost their life serving this country,” said Anna Slocum, director of Merriam’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Why are people stealing flags? It’s very sad.”

Two of the flags disappeared last weekend. Someone swiped nine more Monday night.

Eleven flags have been stolen from the massive Fourth of July display along Merriam and Johnson drives.

So on the eve of Independence Day, Merriam Police are offering an olive branch to whoever swiped the flags.

“They can return them to our community center, no questions asked,” Cpl. Neil Weiler with the Merriam Police Department said. “But if we do find them through investigation, they will prosecute.”

Phil Vanderweide is a Vietnam veteran who learned about the flag thefts while visiting the display Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s frustrating, disappointing and depressing,” Vanderweide said. “I guess you might say it’s hard to believe that somebody has no more respect than that.”

The Flags for Freedom display is a labor of love for the volunteers who spend the entire calendar year planning and organizing. All of the flags are paid for with donations. Each of the stolen flags is valued at about $30 each.

If you’d like to help, there's an American Legion Band concert at the Merriam Marketplace, at the epicenter of the display, at 1 p.m. on July 4th. You can make a donation there or by visiting this site.