A Dayton teenager apologized Thursday to Carson City residents for damaging the C Hill flag, but said he was not responsible for trying to cut out one of the flag's stars.
Jakob Kuhlman, 18, admitted he damaged the flag on April 11 by cutting it with a sharp rock. But he said he was in Wyoming when someone put a 30-inch hole in the flag by trying to cut out a star sometime Easter weekend.
Kuhlman was cited for vandalism and is scheduled to appear in Carson City Justice Court on Tuesday.
In a letter to the Nevada Appeal on Thursday, he issued a formal apology to the people of Carson City.
"With deepest sincerity I apologize for damaging your and my flag on C Hill," he wrote. "That flag represents freedom for us all and I was disrespectful." (The full letter is on Page A6.)
In a telephone interview, Kuhlman said the act "wasn't premeditated. I just went up there and I wasn't thinking. It was just a dumb mistake; it wasn't to hurt someone. I just didn't respect it."
The flag was erected just above the C which gives the hill its name in memory of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
The date, seven months to the day after the attack, was a coincidence, Kuhlman said.
"I was up there with some friends, but they had nothing to do with it," he said. "I'm taking full responsibility for the issue."
Kuhlman said his sister had mentioned the earlier incident to him, though he didn't read about in in the newspaper.
A hiker came across the group after Kuhlman had put a slice in the flag with a sharp rock. Kuhlman said he talked to the hiker and that the man got his name from one of his friends.
"We weren't up there trying to hide anything," he said.
Kuhlman spoke with Josh Buscay, the graphic artist who serves as one of the flags' caretakers.
"I really apologize to everybody and thank Josh Buscay for forgiving me and not judging me," he said. "He really showed me a lot of grace."
Buscay invited Kuhlman to join the foundation so he could help take care of the flag.
Kuhlman, who is home-schooled, said he plans on joining the Coast Guard. He notes in his letter that an uncle is fighting in the "War on Terrorism" and his brother is in the U.S. Navy.
A C Hill Flag foundation has been started to maintain the flag. President Dan Mooney said the group is seeking weekend volunteer work crews to repair and maintain the 120- by 76-foot flag. Anyone interested in helping with the project may call 882-5705 or e-mail Nevada4@aol.com.