California memorial to soldiers slain in Kabul blast vandalized

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A memorial for the 13 U.S. service members who lost their lives in a terrorist suicide bombing attack in Kabul airport last month has been reportedly vandalized.

According to the Riverside Police Department in California, 13 American flags, one to represent each of the fallen soldiers, was displayed on a freeway bridge in Riverside as a memorial. It was found vandalized on Labor Day.

KTLA reports that on Facebook, Riverside police announced that they were investigating the vandalism, showing photos which revealed that portions of some of the flags were shredded or cut.

“Recently after the deaths of our 13 United States Service Members killed in Afghanistan, 13 American Flags and 1 Marine Corp flag were placed on the fence to the Ivy Street overpass to the 91 Freeway in Riverside as a memorial. Sometime yesterday, an observant citizen noticed the flags appeared to be damaged and it was reported to the police,” Riverside police wrote, adding that “At this point, we don’t have any suspect description but it’s obvious the flags were intentionally damaged.”

The police thanked “What is Going on in Riverside County”, a local neighborhood Facebook group, for alerting them to the vandalism. They stated that the damaged flags would be removed and turned over to a local Boy Scout troop for proper retirement.

The report from KTLA notes that three of the U.S. Marines being honored by the memorial, Kareem Nikoui, Dylan Merola, and Hunter Lopez, were all from Southern California. The three service members, along with ten others, were killed in the last days of the evacuation from Afghanistan.

“I want to say it’s insane, it really is. I mean who would do that? I mean it represents something to all of us, but more importantly to the families of these thirteen,” Riverside officer Ryan Railsback told KTLA.

“It broke my heart, not only for me, but for their family, for their country that they died serving and protecting for us to have our freedom,” said Steve Johnson, a man who helped to remove some of the damaged flags.

KTLA reports that community members had replaced the damaged flags with new ones less than a day after they were defaced, and a new memorial was also placed at another overpass to honor the fallen soldiers.

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