Flags of Valor
Wooden Flags Made in America by Combat Veterans Who’ve Put Their Lives on the Line for American Freedom
By Brian Steorts
I spent my entire childhood surrounded by veterans, starting with my father. Growing up in a military family, I found myself drawn to service from a very young age. My brother joined the Army, my sister joined the Navy, and I initially joined the Army where I became a paratrooper. It was never a question of if I would serve. It was only a question of how.
At Flags Of Valor we have three distinct core values. We believe that made in America still matters. Veterans are an invaluable resource. And we believe in giving back! We love that we do and have been. I’ve deployed numerous times to Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Africa, and the Pacific Islands. The thing I am most proud of is the people I had the honor of serving with. I’ve never used the word patriot to describe myself because it seems like a lofty description of a duty that should be in all of us, whether it be to serve in uniform, serve our communities, or to serve our nation through business. We all have the chance to serve a cause greater than ourselves.
Proud To Be An American Business Owner
My business, Flags Of Valor, is another avenue of service. When we create our wooden American Flags, we get to create a product that represents the greatest symbol of freedom in the world. We get to make something by hand in America. We get to employ America’s best and, most importantly, we get to give back. Our core values shouldn’t be unique to Flags Of Valor and can be applied to a myriad of businesses and philanthropic causes.
Knowing the strength of the American veteran community is one of our greatest strengths at Flags Of Valor. We have little concern about an employee’s background in carpentry. We can teach that. What we look for are people called to do something they believe in and who have a shared set of values. These values are incredibly consistent within the veteran community and, hopefully, more companies will follow our lead in trusting the value of these great team members.
The Issue of Post Traumatic Stress
PTS is a very delicate subject. Veterans have returned from war for centuries and essentially forced themselves to deal with the psychological changes they have experienced. Veterans with symptoms should be able to talk about it, but I know that isn’t always easy. That’s one reason why we’ve worked so hard to create an environment where service disabled vets can work together, whether they are dealing with PTS, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), pain or a number of other issues. Our work environment at Flags Of Valor is a family and we’ve found our team makes enormous strides from the mutual understanding and team-focused environment.
I began woodworking while rehabilitating from a service related injury. For me, working with my hands and creating something meaningful from a pile of raw materials was both therapeutic and meaningful. My woodworking went from a hobby to an obsession. My abilities transformed from novice to craftsman, and my focus became a passion. After donating several pieces to the families of fallen EOD soldiers, I realized there was a lot more work to do. I transformed my passion into Flags Of Valor.
Made In America
At Flags Of Valor, I’m proud to say we source all of our supplies from the United States – from our Dewalt ‘Made in America’ line of tools to the wood we source from North Carolina. Even the screws and hanging hardware are American made. This project morphed overnight into something that I realized could touch so many lives and give our veterans an opportunity to transition to a work environment outside the military, while preserving their camaraderie, passion to give back, and love of country.
We love what we do and are humbled by how fast and wide our message has resonated with so many people. Every flag journeys through a weeklong process and the whole crew of craftsmen work together to make it happen. It starts with building the “canvas,” which involves cutting the wood down to the sizes required, routing the appropriate edges, pre-sanding every board, staining the backs, and final assembly. Then we dedicate the rest of the week to perfecting the face of the flag that the customer actually sees. This involves hand painting each color, finish sanding, staining and final application of protective polyurethane coating. It’s amazing to see the entire progression from
raw wood on Monday to beautiful American flags on Friday. Our veterans will overwhelm you with their creativity and work ethic. Nothing beats the joy of giving back.
The most rewarding thing for me is seeing the impact the flag has on our customers. When we can help someone celebrate a special occasion or commemorate someone’s service, it’s tremendous. We do a lot of custom work, too, and every custom piece comes with a story. These customer stories can be very emotional. We get to be a part of so many lives and have a very direct connection with each of these people and the sacrifice of their families.
We’ve made ordering a flag as easy as possible through our online store at flagsofvalor.com and directly through Facebook. We also accommodate customers who prefer to order on the telephone and even invoice customers who prefer to send a check by mail. The customer experience is critical to our mission and we want everyone to feel a part of what we are trying to achieve at Flags Of Valor. The national media exposure we received in July [at the RNC Convention] helped us tremendously and we’ve worked through the backlog. We are now shipping standard orders in as few as 48 hours of receiving them and custom orders generally take 7-10 days to finalize. Our pricing ranges from $149 – $399 and we offer special discounts to Veterans and First Responders.
It’s About The Veterans
The single biggest aspect to all of this is our people. We set out from the beginning to hire only combat veterans to make this beautiful product. We built an environment where veterans can thrive. This environment is in many ways similar to the camaraderie that exists in the uniform. We want the veteran who doesn’t fit into a corporate environment. We want the veteran who has bounced around jobs missing the soldiers’ bond. We want the veterans who are service disabled. What we’ve found is that even the toughest stories find a joyful ending at Flags Of Valor. We’ve created a new family where everyone “gets it” and supports each other. It’s an amazing thing to see people challenge each other to work harder, to get stronger, and to work toward a shared goal. This is our story. Our people are our story.