Daryl Skare was discouraged to find several small American flags burned and left in his gutter late Friday.
They were part of his annual Fourth of July display in his yard on the Santa Barbara Mesa.
Upon closer inspection, he found items missing, including a helmet belonging to a cousin killed in Vietnam and Marine dog tags belonging to his son.
Skare said he understands that people have the freedom to not like the flag and he invited them to knock on his door and talk about it.
The Vietnam vet and former Santa Barbara police officer posted a large sign in his yard asking for the safe return of his things with no questions asked.
The items turned up over the weekend with a note written by an 18-year-old who said he had stolen them back from the kids who took them.
Robert Werthman said he recognized the name on the dog tag.
Werthman said returning them was the right thing to do. He said he plans to join the Marines as soon as he finishes high school.