By CBSLA Staff

WESTWOOD (CBSLA) – On a day that many Americans honor the sacrifice of women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, visitors to the National Cemetery in Westwood paid their respects Monday, despite an early morning theft of American flags from the cemetery grounds.

VA Police said there’s an ongoing investigation into theft of 20 stolen flags along Constitution Avenue, as well as the 20×30 foot Garrison flag that flies over the cemetery and is worth thousands of dollars.

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20 flags along Constitution Ave. (pictured here) were stolen, along with a 20×30 foot Garrison Flag from the National Cemetery grounds Memorial Day 2021

However, they made it clear that the incident shouldn’t be a distraction this Memorial Day, nor a concern for the many people who come to the grounds every year to remember those who are lost.

“You can’t really think about freedom without thinking about sacrifice,” Jon Lim, a veteran, told CBSLA’s Joy Benedict. Lim came to visit and remember Capt. James Ahn, a green beret who died on a training mission.

“One of the best of the best,” Lim said. “Apparently his parachute malfunctioned. Also, there was an issue with his reserve parachute as well, and so he did not make that jump. Ironically, it happened on September 11 in 2015.”

Jackie Maldonado came to visit her brother, Staff Sergeant Jesus Maldonado who served in the Army for 14 years.

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“October 2014, two days after his birthday…it was self-inflicted. We believe he had PTSD. Everything just seemed so okay and it wasn’t,” Maldonado said of her brother’s sacrifice.

There was no official ceremony this year and some graves never got flags, but those who came to pay their respects said they didn’t need a flyover or celebrities to remember the fallen.

Rich Reinis never served in the military, but said he brings his family to the cemetery every year at this time.

“The major thing for me is to walk among the graves and see the names of those buried here. It’s the right thing to do. I want my kids and my grandchildren to understand what the holiday is about and what men and women have sacrificed for this country,” Reinis said.

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As for the stolen flags, workers replaced the large Garrison flag with a smaller flag this morning. It is believed that that there were numerous thieves due to the number of people required to bring the 20×30 foot Garrison flag down and carry it away.