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Flag Memorial In Riverside Honoring 13 Fallen Service Members Continues Getting Pulled Down

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) - A memorial of 13 American flags, representing the 13 fallen soldiers killed in the bombing attack outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August, has had a hard time staying up.

The most recent set of 13 flags flap in the wind above the Adams Streets overpass off the 91 Freeway in Riverside.

An original set of flags, put on the Ivy Street overpass, were cut in half by vandals. Those flags were then replaced with two new memorials, which were ripped down again the next day.

"If they're not kids, then maybe they're adults who live under a rock and don't know what's going on," said Sal Atiel Garnica, a Marine Corps veteran.

American flags
A memorial of 13 flags, representing the 13 fallen service members killed in the August Kabul, Afghanistan, bombing was vandalized. (credit: CBS)

Garnica put some of the flags that have since been stolen.

"I'm just hoping it's not anyone with ill intent," he said.

Some people are now wondering if crews from the California Department of Transportation are taking them down or, perhaps, a neighbor.

Caltrans said it's actually illegal to attach anything like a sign or a banner to a freeway overpass without a permit, though they also said they have not removed any of the American flags that were above the Riverside overpasses.

However, Caltrans said crews did remove 54 American flags that were attached to overpasses in Rancho Cucamonga because they posed a visual hazard, but after emotional phone calls, the flags were returned to their owners.

In a written statement, Caltrans said:

"Safety is a top priority for Caltrans. We understand that the flags are meaningful to the people who placed them. However, any distraction on the highway presents an immediate safety hazard for motorists...for safety, the department needs to remove the flags."

In the meantime, there is still a flag memorial at 5th and Hamner in Norco and a massive one on the Riverside County Sheriff's office.

"But I mean, they can't down the flag if it's in my hands, so...," Garnica said.

Garnica and his friends are inviting people to join them Saturday morning at 10 a.m. on September 11 to hold a flag at the Ivy Street overpass in honor of those 13 service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"I saw their photographs, they looked like me when I was in bootcamp. We all had the same haircut. We all looked super skinny and sunburnt. I know they would do the same for any other Marine or soldier or sailor," Garnica said.

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