When Neal Lyday arrived at his gym in Bakersfield, Calif., on Wednesday, he found one of his trainers – U.S. combat veteran Michael Portell – standing under where his American flag was supposed to be.
He said Portell was standing in disbelief because charred remains of the flag were on the pavement and the pole was burned to a crisp.
“He couldn’t believe that someone could actually do that,” he told KBAK. “It hurt me to see something like that.”
Lyday shared some photos of the burned remains on Facebook.
“So on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day… I got this,” Lyday wrote. “To hell with you .. Thank God it only burned the flag.”
Lyday’s gym was not the only one vandalized on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the bombing in Pearl Harbor.
The American flag from the neighboring gym, owned by Dicky Mulyana, also was burned.
“I noticed there was something on the ground and then I looked up and was like ‘where’s my flag?’” Mulyana told KBAK.
The vandalism apparently happened sometime between when Muylana left his business at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday when he returned.
Both gym owners said they had no idea who did it. They didn’t believe it was a disgruntled client but would not rule it out.
Video footage of the incident may not exist. The surveillance cameras on Lyday's property did not catch anything because crews had turned them off when he recently moved units.
Muylana, who moved to the United States from Indonesia when he was 10, said he believed the act of vandalism was part of a larger cultural shift possibly related to the presidential election.
“America is the best place. Whether you want to expect that or not, it’s got so much freedom, so much opportunity,” he said.
Lyday wholeheartedly agreed with that sentiment.
“Go somewhere else for a couple of months and see what the rights you have there and see you’ll be happy to come back here,” he added.
Both gym owners have notified the Bakersfield Police Department. In the meantime, they have both replaced the charred flags and would not stand down.
“Hopefully they won’t come back and do it again,” Lyday said.