NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) –- The stars and stripes are perhaps our Nation’s most recognizable symbol. But a tribute to service members on Masonboro Island is making waves among boaters and the people in charge of the island.
Cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway and near marker 151 you’ll find an empty flagpole. Since the Fourth of July weekend, it had flown an American flag. Boaters calling themselves the “Anonymous Patriots” posted a plaque with it honoring veterans and active duty military that have served our county and defended our freedom. They say they could not think of a better view from their boats than Old Glory. But now, the flag is gone, and the boaters who put it up, who do not want to be identified, say they don’t understand why.
“It's disappointing that the state doesn't recognize it for what it is, a memorial that didn't cost the tax payers a dime,” and Anonymous Patriot said. “It would have been nice if the state would have erected something like that but again, some private citizens, “Anonymous Patriots” put it up as a city memorial for all the see."
Hope Sutton with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management says personal property is not allowed on Masonboro Reserve, so the flag had to go.
“We give them some time to come claim their property, then we go back and remove those items,” Sutton said. “So in this case, it happens to be a flag pole, but it's pretty much the same as other personal property."
Sutton says Coastal Management left a note on the flag Friday letting the owners know that by law it had to be taken down. She says when the flag was still flying Tuesday morning, officials removed it from the pole. Sutton says she knows the people responsible for the flag are nervous to come forward, because they think they will get in trouble, but she says she is working to find a new home for the flag.
“We would like nothing more than whoever placed that flagpole there to come and work with us to find a more suitable location where it could be lawfully installed so it could be appreciated as it was intended,” Sutton said.
The boaters say they do not think they were given enough time to figure out if the flag could stay where it was, and where they hope it will soon return. They say they have gone as far as to contact local and state leaders to see what can be done about getting the flag back where they think it belongs.