When United States Army paratrooper Brian Steorts left the military after three years with the 82nd Airborne, he thought that chapter of his life was over. Through a military scholarship he went to college and got a degree in business. Then the September 11, 2001 attacks happened, and Steorts felt compelled to reenlist so that he could serve in combat for his country. The young man with a bright future ahead of him gave up everything to join the United States Air Force, where he would see nine tours of duty as a pilot.
On his ninth deployment, Brian sustained a combat injury that would end his military career. He began rehabilitation but quickly noticed that something was missing. “Where’s your flag?” was a question he kept asking himself. He had grown up in a military family; he had personally worn the uniform for years — all the time with an American flag patch on his shoulder. Now out of uniform and entering civilian life (again), Steorts wanted to find a way of having that symbol around him again. That’s when he turned to woodworking.
Steorts founded the company, Flags of Valor in 2015 after teaching himself woodworking with old-fashioned, traditional techniques. The business, he decided, would employ combat-injured veterans like himself to create wooden flags. “We’re very old school,” Steorts told FOX Business. “We make everything by hand. We believe Made in America still matters, we believe that our veterans are an untapped resource, and believe in giving back.”
Brian first got the idea of starting his own flag-making business while he was in rehab for his combat injuries. He found a wooden American flag online, but it wasn’t made in America — something he couldn’t get over. “It was a wooden flag, and it was beautiful,” said Brian. “But I found out it wasn’t made in the United States, and of course that upset me. So then I decided, ‘why not try to make my own?'”
That was the birth of Flags of Valor, a now-thriving business at which combat injured veterans use locally sourced wood to hand craft amazing flags for customers. Hiring all veterans allows Brian to help other veterans transition from military to civilian life together, and for himself and his employees, it keeps the sense of brotherhood and camaraderie alive that they had in the military.
“Running your own company is an honor. Getting to work with America’s best is a privilege,” according to Steorts. “Everyone here improves one another in a way and we all have a shared vision. I can’t do any of this without them, and they can’t do any of this without each other.”
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“From everyday issues to getting through injuries they’ve sustained, (Flags of Valor) has helped a lot of them in many ways that you can’t measure,” said the veteran business owner. But the all-American, veteran operated business isn’t just helping combat vets adjust to civilian life. They pride themselves on giving back to the community and veterans’ causes as well. Giving away flags and donating them to auctions for charity, Flags of Valor has helped organizations including Special Operations Warrior Foundation Luke’s Wings, Officer Down Memorial Page, C.O.P.S., and the Navy S.E.A.L. Foundation.
“It’s very rewarding to present a flag made by our team, we know what it means to us and what it means to them,” said Steorts. “Who better to give to than someone who has worn it on his or her sleeve? It’s a feeling you can’t buy.”
Flags of Valor’s combat veteran employees handcrafted flags include 50 star flags, vintage American flags, the Gadsden and Gonzalez flags, as well as “Thin Blue Line” and “Thin Red Line” flags for law enforcement and first responders.
Learn more about Flags of Valor in the video below, then click beneath it to help homeless veterans get job training!
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.