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Honor, courage, commitment, pride, freedom, equality, opportunity.
These are just some of the words you’ll hear if you ask the Flags of Valor team what the American flag means to them. As military veterans who now spend their days building wooden U.S. flags, the FOV team’s love of the Stars and Stripes is visible in their craftsmanship and palpable in their words.
The FOV workshop in Ashburn, Virginia, illustrates this same admiration. The front room is full of finished flags, some gleaming with pride (and a shiny sealant) and others looking worn but resilient thanks to various distressing techniques used by the Flags of Valor team.
This show room, though, doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the workshop behind it, much less of the men and women who work there.
After medically discharged from the Air Force following eight deployments, Flags of Valor founder Brian Steorts experienced bouts of loneliness and depression. He took up woodworking in his garage as part of his therapy, using local wood and other U.S.-based materials to build and paint American flags.
He donated his first flags to fallen soldiers’ families. While Steorts was glad to have a productive activity, nothing could compare to how he felt when he presented those flags to families of loved ones who had sacrificed everything for their country.
And so was born Flags of Valor, a veteran-owned, veteran-operated and veteran-made company. The company’s mission statement still reflects those early days in Steorts’ garage and those first few donated flags: Combat veterans deserve opportunity; Made in America matters; and we should never stop giving back.
A group of UPSers recently had the opportunity to join FOV for a half-day flag build. With FOV’s professional guidance, each person sanded, nailed and sealed their very own small, wooden American flag.
This firsthand, up-close look into Flags of Valor’s operations helped the team better understand how a flag evolves from raw wood to handcrafted, custom pieces of pure Americana. More importantly, though, they learned about the lives of the craftsmen behind them.
The FOV veterans shared deeply personal stories. In addition to multiple combat tours around the world, they told stories of homelessness, becoming U.S. citizens, overcoming PTSD and searching for a way to replace the camaraderie they left behind in the military.
Steorts and his company were a source of hope and promise for these men, and they attribute much of their post-military success to Flags of Valor. This is the power of small business.
Steorts started Flags of Valor in his garage with a few tools, a little wood and some paint. But he knew he needed a team — employees, suppliers, logistics support, shipping guidance and more.
“When we first met UPS, we didn’t even know how to prepare a flag to ship,” Steorts said. “UPS has been with us every step of the way, from a garage-based business to our first building to an even bigger building when we outgrew the first one.”
“I remember when a UPS semi-truck showed up outside to pick up our first really big shipment,” he continued. “We wouldn’t have been able to do that without UPS’s support.”
UPS is proud to serve small businesses because they strengthen communities. Flags of Valor creates jobs, employs veterans and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for veteran and first responder charities.
Every flag FOV sells ultimately helps the company continue its mission of remembering, employing and empowering American veterans.
At UPS, we know we can support our customers better when we understand who they are and what they do. Especially when it comes to small businesses, it’s important to know not only a customer’s shipping and logistics needs but also their story and how they got to where they are now — and how we can help them grow even more.
To learn more about Flags of Valor, click here.
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