Flags of Valor for Veteran’s Day

This year we observe Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 11th but did you know that this federal holiday was initially known as Armistice Day?

Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. [1] The US and other countries celebrated the end of World War I on this Day.

In 1945, a World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand the holiday to include all military veterans of war. For eight and half years, the holiday was informally recognized until finally a bill was signed into law on May 26th, 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, making it an official federal observance.

Veteran’s Day honors those who have served their country, dead or alive and thanks the living for the sacrifices they have made for their country. One North Bend resident, Kathy Hyland, has found a unique way to thank veterans and first responders not only on this day but also for what they endure in the name of freedom every day of the year.

The Hyland’s moved to the valley in 1994, right after they were married. They started their family and raised two boys, who are both in their 20’s now. After retiring from the in-home daycare, Kathy’s Kid Daycare, she ran for 21 years, she went to work as the Youth Success! Mentoring Coordinator for the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network.

Kathy started her wood art business originally as an empty nester hobby, but that morphed quickly into a creative business when a neighbor said, “you should sell those.” Says Hyland, “I kept looking at the old fence we had just taken down, so I got creative making simple flags out of the fence. I had fun using a blow torch to see how it would change the wood and paint.”

She got help from friends naming her business, Weathered Whimsy, started a Facebook page and sells her maps and flags created out of reclaimed wood. She learned to use a hand burning tool to burn trails on the maps and the stars on flags. Never having built anything more challenging than a piece of Ikea furniture, Kathy watched YouTube videos and experimented. She barely had tools to start, just an old circular saw and a belt sander, but over time, as she sold pieces, she bought tools.

Flags of Valor started when she put some flags up for sale on Facebook and got a private message from the wife of a Wounded Warrior. She asked if Kathy could create a flag for her husband, who had survived a horrific helicopter crash in the “sandbox”, but was left with lifelong injuries.

When asked how much the flag would cost. With tears in her eyes, Hyland replied, “no charge,” created the flag, and the two delivered it as a surprise. The Flags of Valor program was born out of that encounter.

These flags are custom created and free of charge for veterans and first responders who have been injured in the line of duty, including PTSD. Being the daughter of a 20-year veteran, the sister of a police officer and Aunt to family who have or are currently serving, Hyland is keenly aware of everything that the vets and first responders have sacrificed to keep us all safe.

Going on Facebook with her idea, she asked people to give her the names of deserving people. In very little time, she had a long list and went to work creating flags. As she creates each flag, she ponders the person’s story and, over time, her skills have improved. She now makes custom emblems by hand to personalize each flag. Over the last two years, Hyland has created over 25 custom pieces. The flags have gone to vets, first responders, or the families of someone killed on the job.  

One local flag recipient was 97-year-old Burt Mann, famous in North Bend for his daily walks. 

Many don’t know that Burt is a D-Day vet and in the second round of soldiers to hit Normandy Beach. When most of his fellow servicemen were killed in action, Burt was able to bury himself in the sand and wait for more troops to come. He was hit by much shrapnel, some of which is still in his body to this Day.

Most of her recipients remain private, and some she never meets. The flag is given to the nominator, and they surprise the recipient. She sells her maps and uses the money to fund tools and supplies to continue to custom create Flags of Valor for free.

Like the rest of us, 2020 has been rough for the Hyland’s and has dramatically slowed down her ability to create Flags of Valor and other art. However, she is getting back to creating flags again and will have several ready in time for holiday surprises. Her list is long but is always accepting referrals for Flags of Valor.

If you know of a deserving person in your life who should receive a Flag of Valor, you may message her through her Facebook Page Weathered Whimsy.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

Thank you to all our local veterans.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Day

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