It was an unpatriotic crime, especially the day before July 4th.
Nick Walsh, a 69-year-old veteran who was a Green Beret in Vietnam, came back to his partner Patricia Janes' house Sunday after playing golf to find that someone had stolen his American flag, which belonged to his father.
"We've had it flying here for the past three years," Walsh said. "I put it up for Memorial Day and had left it up ever since and nobody has ever messed with it. I mean it's just unbelievable just how disrespectful somebody could be."
The 10-foot by 15-foot flag -- which was canvas and had galvanized eyelets and embroidered stars -- was the garrison flag at Fort Dix in New Jersey. The flag, at least 45 years old, was presented to Walsh's father, Army 1st Sgt. Thomas J. Walsh, when he retired in 1966.
Walsh's father was part of the Normandy invasion during World War II and fought through France, Germany and all the way to the Battle of the Bulge in Pennsylvania's 28th Division. When he died in 1987, he passed the flag down to his son.
"There's a lot of history behind that flag," Walsh said. "How could somebody do that on the Fourth of July weekend?"
Walsh hopes whoever took the old flag didn't desecrate it, because his military honor would then demand that he burn it.
Walsh said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. Saturday at Janes' house at the corner of Smith and Morris streets by a bunch of rowdy kids across the street. Noise again woke him at 3 a.m.
"I didn't pay any attention to it," Walsh said, adding that he suspects a group of drunk youths stole the flag as a prank.
Morris and Janes filed a police report and said that police, who were familiar with the flag, have been on the lookout.
"Every year on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, I buy a bunch of little flags and put them around the garden," Walsh said. "They disappear, and I don't care about that, I'm glad somebody can take it home and wave it and whatever, but this flag is a memorial to my dad and I've had it for years."
Janes, a 62-year-old psychology professor at the College of Charleston, said the flag had both aesthetic and sentimental value.
"My house has this big arch on the Morris Street side, and this large flag was suspended from the second floor and it came down from the second-floor piazza and covered the first-floor piazza," Janes said. "It was really elegantly framed by the arch of the house, and was very recognizable to everybody that came by here. Whoever took the flag stepped up into the garden and was able to reach the bottom of the flag, and then they pulled the flag with such a force that it cut into the railing of the second floor piazza."
Robin Brothers, 50, who lives next to Janes, said the flag made the neighborhood.
"It's not a patriotic holiday without Nick's flag," Brothers said.
Walsh said he just wants the flag back, and doesn't care if someone returns it anonymously to himself or the police.
"I just would love to have it appear, but I'm afraid it's been desecrated already," Walsh said. "I'm not a vicious person, it's just that flag means a lot."
Reach Ryan Quinn at 937-5906.