Just over a month ago volunteers from Bethel Baptist Church and BAM Fest, purchased paint, sketched a plan and painted an American flag on the frequently defaced wall off state Route 125.
The brightly colored wall made it through BAM Fest, but has been defaced again and again in the past month, despite the fact that it resembles a national symbol.
“After they painted the flag, when I drove by it I had a memory flash back,” Bethel councilman Rus Whitley, who served in Vietnam said about the wall. “I had to pull over because my eyes teared up. When I saw how it was defaced I thought ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’”
Whitley said the flag was defaced June 10 and 11, and not only with graffiti, but also inappropriate pictures and words. Since then, Whitley has been helping to collect donations from local residents.
The donations will not go toward paint, but rather be used as a reward to help them catch the culprits. Whitley said they’ve already collected almost $1,000 to put up as a reward, and they also have several suspects.
“It’s been a senior tradition to paint on that wall,” Whitley said. “We thought if we put a flag up there they’d have a little hesitance, evidently there are a few that don’t care. What they put on there was vulgar.”
Whitley said once the vandals are confirmed he intends for them to become an example. They will face punishment and will also be responsible for coming up with the money to pay for damages. Whitley also said he’d like to see them stand by the wall holding a sign that says they are the vandals.
“It’s going to end defacing the flag one way or another,” Whitley said. “Even if we have to make an example each time.”
The painting of the wall has been going back and forth for quite a while. Bethel council members, local churches and residents have all fought to keep the wall graffiti-free, with no luck.
“People coming into town are wondering what kind of people are living in the village,” Whitley said.
The painting before BAM Fest was the first time the American flag was featured on the wall. Stewart Clark, pastor at Bethel Baptist who was responsible for the first flag, said his reasoning behind it was to deter graffiti and paint something that everyone could be proud of.
“We got so many compliments on it,” Clarke said after it was painted the first time. “Nobody wants to look at graffiti. I think for us it’s a matter of stopping the graffiti that makes the whole town look bad.”
Whitley said volunteers will paint the flag on the wall for the second time June 21, as long as the weather holds out. His suggestion once it is painted, is for people to think before they paint.
“Especially the American flag,” Whitley said. “That flag is patriotic. It represents our country and our freedom. A lot of people have died fighting for that flag.”