Having served in the Marines, Bobby DeAngelo already respected the American flag and his fellow veterans. A year and a half ago, he wanted to use the former to help the latter.
So, he does, with a lot of help from his friends.
DeAngelo, 57, created the Just Cause Flag Campaign to raise money for organizations that support military veterans and their families. So far, he’s about a third of the way to raising $500,000 for these charities.
His interest began when he started attending “Never Quit, Never Forget” galas in Baton Rouge five years ago, which raise money for organizations supporting wounded military personnel and spouses of special forces personnel killed in the line of duty. The more he looked, the more needs he saw.
“There are a lot of guys out there that have seen a lot of combat that just weren’t being helped, the families and men,” DeAngelo said.
At one gala, DeAngelo made a donation for a framed American flag donated by Alice Daniel, whose son, Army Staff Sgt. William Austin Daniel, died of cancer in 2009 after having served in Iraq, a death she attributes to exposure to toxins while deployed. That gave him the idea for the Just Cause Flag Campaign.
He bought 1,000 flags, bought framing equipment and materials, and recruited volunteers to frame the flags, which would go to those making $500 donations. Donors can pick from six organizations as beneficiaries:
- The Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides educational support to spouses and children of fallen and wounded soldiers;
- Blue Star Mothers of Baton Rouge Chapter 1, a patriotism and support organization of mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians with children in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans;
- Special Ops Survivors, which assists surviving spouses of active duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Special Operations personnel who have died in combat or training since Jan. 1, 1980;
- The Combat Wounded Coalition, which helps combat-wounded warriors deal with the effects of trauma, expand personal capabilities and find individual, unique purpose through programs that improve confidence, provide networking and direction, and offer balance and tranquility.
- The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, which provides family enrichment activities to military service members, first responders and their families;
- Heroes on the Water, a Louisiana program that offers kayak fishing trips to military personnel and veterans for therapy and relaxation.
“All six of these organizations agreed that they would not spend one dime for administrative (costs),” DeAngelo said. “It would all go to the vets and their families. That was important to us.”
DeAngelo, who quit working in pipe fabrication about three years ago, maintains a Baton Rouge warehouse and has turned it into a flag-framing operation. At least once a week, volunteers — family, friends, veterans and military interest organizations among them — frame the flags, which have been shipped all over the country.
“They come in on their lunch break from work,” said Lynn McMorris, who is part of the project. “They come in after work, just whenever we can get people there.”
So far, about 340 of the flags have gone to donors, DeAngelo said. Others have been donated to be auctioned at fundraisers — one of which, McMorris said, was acquired by Clint Eastwood with a $50,000 donation at a Folds of Honor event in Kansas City, Missouri.
“We really haven’t done a good marketing job,” DeAngelo said. “Word of mouth right now has probably moved most of them. When somebody sees one hanging up, they’ll inquire about it, and we’ll get a call.”
The flags, which are numbered and include a card signed by the recipient organization’s representative, are available at justcauseflagcampaign.org. There is a $12.50 credit card service charge. Local delivery or pickup is free; there is a $75 charge if the flag is shipped.