GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) --
A Marion County business owner is looking for answers after two of her American flags were stolen from her restaurant. She says she replaced the flags only to have another flag vandalized a few days later.
Here's why Mary Self says she won't let whoever did this get the last word.
"Marion County is very patriotic and it really stuns me this happened here."
Mary Self's disbelief started on the fourth of July when two flags outside her Ocala Beach restaurant disappeared overnight.
"My thoughts were maybe some kids were going to a July fourth party and wanted flags. A lot of kids fly flags from the back of their trucks and maybe somebody didn't have the money to go buy one."
Then this weekend sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning on the 10th, vandals struck again.
TV20's Landon Harrar reported "when Mary came into work Saturday morning she expected to see the two flags that had been hanging here for 8 years, that mark the entrance to her restaurant. Instead one of the flags was nowhere to be found. She said when she started looking around the area she found the flag pole shoved into a drainage grate and right next to the grate she found the flag in the dirt with a clear footprint where someone had stomped on it."
Mary added, "it had been ripped off the pole and stabbed with a knife several times and stomped into the mud. We had had quite a bit of rain and the mud is what I noticed all over and footprints."
Mary says she has cameras facing towards where the flags were but it was too far away and dark to see anything. She's filed a police report which would result in a criminal mischief charge if the vandals are caught.
Mary says she doesn't have any words to say to whoever did this, she just wants to make sure they never do it to her or anybody else again.
Long-time family friend and a regular at the Beach Ocala Cliff Murphy said, "the second we found out the flag was down she had a new one up in hours. So I think she's sending a good message to them you're not going to back down, so she's not backing down and I agree I'd be doing the same thing, in fact, I'd be putting up more."
Mary added, "I'm not gonna be scared you're not gonna scare me. People suggested I move my flags, I'm not moving my flags, I'm not taking them down I'm not changing anything I do and I'll just keep buying flags."
The damaged flag had to be hung to dry in order for it to be properly folded and retired. Mary says she has a friend who is a member of the Marine Corps who has agreed to retire the flag for her as honorably as it should be