Flags for Fortitude honors heroes who are making a difference

Posted at 10:34 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 23:45:20-04

Whether cutting, bending, or burning sheets of metal, Shane Henderson and his team at Metal Art of Wisconsin put their souls into every piece they create.

"Building something with your hands, and putting it out there, and having people go nuts over it is very rewarding," he explains.

Henderson says the most gratifying part of his business isn't tripling production in the three years since he started it with his son in their garage, or even having the world's largest metal art following on Instagram, it's the creation of his Flags for Fortitude program.  

"It's a rush. It's a rush, because you're making a difference in someone's life."

Henderson encourages people to nominate a hero in their life, such as an officer, doctor, or soldier. It can be anyone whose acts of courage and kindness are making a difference.    

"They're out their keeping us safe, so they should be rewarded for that." 

Henderson and his staff review the nomination letters weekly and select an extraordinary person to receive a free American Flag art piece. He presented one of the first donated flags to his wife's grandfather, 96-year-old Tony Petrauski of Sheboygan, in recognition of his service in World War II.

"He doesn't see himself, I think, of being worthy of something like that, but we definitely do," said Tammy Henderson.

The only thing Shane asks for in return is for the recipients to send him a photo of themselves with their flags, so he can post them on his website and social media.

Employee Eric Machia is proud to contribute his skills to the program. "We make stuff and sell stuff and make money, but the best part is when you give things to people when they don't expect it. The feeling they get. We don't need money for that."

Recently, Machia and Henderson made it a point to donate hand oiled, pine wood flags to deputies and officers on the Lakeshore.

"It makes us feel good. It makes us feel motivated to keep serving our communities in a positive way," said Captain Larry Zimney with the Manitowoc Police Department.

"Whether it be someone saying thank you, whether it's someone showing support by putting a blue light on their house at night, or like Metal Art of Wisconsin donating this to our building to dress up our walls, you can't put a dollar value on that, and it's greatly appreciated," added Lieutenant Dan Hartwig with the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office.

Flags for Fortitude are made with care and American pride to honor those who protect us.

"I hope that they feel that what they're doing is worth something and that people appreciate it," said Machia.

Henderson says there's no better feeling than giving our heroes a tangible 'thank you' that they will always treasure. "I think they're awesome and if we can put a smile on their face by putting a flag in their hand, it's all worth it." 

Click here to learn how to nominate a hero in your life.