Thieves steal flags from Englewood church's Veterans Garden

CREATED Jan. 5, 2014 - UPDATED: Jan. 6, 2014

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ENGLEWOOD, Fla. - Minister Jim Ratliff strolls through the Veterans Memorial Garden after Sunday services at Englewood East Church of Christ.

"It's so peaceful out here when the flags are flying," Ratliff said.

But today, the flag poles are empty.

"It don't feel the same does it?" Ratliff asks.

Early Christmas morning, thieves stole the garden's seven flags--one for each military branch, the church's flag and the American flag.

It's a total loss of about $500, but it's not just about the money.

"It's just not right," church member Laurie Winter said. "It's just not right that you would go and do something like that for what reason, we just have no reason why."

Winter came up with the idea for the garden as a way for the entire community to honor those who have died.

"When I come out here and sit in the garden, and you know the wind is always blowing here in Florida, and you hear the flags in the wind, there's a calm that comes over this garden and peace you just don't feel anywhere else," Ratliff said.

The church does have surveillance cameras, but they were too far away and it was too dark out to identify the suspects. Ratliff says they are now looking into other options like motion sensors and night vision cameras.

In the meantime, the community has already started to help. One church member even donated the American flag the military gave her at her husband's funeral.

"We're not down for good, we will come back and we will keep these flags flying," Ratliff said.

If you want to help the church buy new flags, you can visit the church on 9600 Gulfstream Boulevard in Englewood or call the church at (941) 475-4973.

If you have any information on the stolen flags, you can call Charlotte County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.