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The Flag Maker

A Veteran Gives Back

by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jeanyra Gaines, All Hands Magazine
11 April 2019 The workbench overflows with materials from glue to twisted nails, the floor is draped with shaved wood, dust and scraps, and no surface is empty. Torched until its lines deepen in color, the smell of burned wood wafts through the humid, Louisiana air. The sound of the table saw is the only thing heard.
VIRIN: 190411-N-DO437-1001

He continues to meticulously polish the wooden flag, which was created for the police department as a token of appreciation. He doesn't listen to music, but instead he allows the sounds of the flag-making process to guide him, and when he is done the previously flawed pieces of wood are morphed into a symbol of freedom and patriotism.

Tommy Donovan, a United States Navy veteran, gives back to his community and honors those who protect and serve the United States by creating uniquely designed flags, inspired by the Old Glory theme.

Donovan explained the process of transforming wood from pallets that were once used to transport furniture as a complex undertaking.

“Each flag is at least a 10 step process,” said Donovan. “You have to take the pallets, which are all different in size and condition, and refine each piece of wood to fit perfectly together. The end product takes many hours of manual labor. Though the flag is inspired by the love I have for this country and what the United States flag represents, each flag is catered to the specific group of people that contribute to the safety in our community. By adding a blue, thin line in a law-enforcement flag or incorporating the red fire axe for the fire department, I am telling those that sacrifice their safety to protect others that they are appreciated.”

While the process of flag making provides Donovan with the hands-on work that he has always enjoyed, gifting the flag to the men and women in public service is the ultimate reward.

“I love my country,” said Donovan. “By giving a police officer, a fire fighter, a veteran, a military service member a flag that stands for freedom and liberty, I am providing them with a piece of the country I love. When they hang a flag that I've built, I am thanking them for their service. I am telling them they are appreciated. I feel joy knowing this flag can be on their wall or in their office to remind them that they are so valuable in our community.”

Donovan compared the process of making a flag to the transformation he experienced after joining the Navy.

“Similar to the pallets, prior to the military I was a rough-cut guy,” said Donovan. “My attitude was rebellious, and I didn't have a clear path. The Navy polished me. They shaved my head and made me responsible and focused. My job as an aviation mechanic made me very detail-oriented. When I returned home nobody recognized me. Like the scraps of wood that I bring in and transform into something worthy to be admired, the Navy polished me into a responsible family man that takes life seriously and focuses on what really matters.”

He credits the Navy with providing him with the necessary skills to help contribute to the care of his daughter.

“When my wife and I adopted our daughter, we knew she would need extra care,” said Donovan. “She was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at four years old, and we loved her so much we knew she was worth every sacrifice we would have to make to help her deal with the life-threatening illness. Similar to when I worked on aircraft, I have a huge responsibility of taking care of someone else. I took my job seriously and was detail-oriented while working on aircraft; because I knew the pilot counted on the quality of my work to fly safely. The trust I had from the pilots I have from my daughter. She knows I take the role of parenting her seriously. I am thankful that God allowed me to care for her and that I am detail-oriented, responsible and focused because of my years in the military. The training I received years ago still plays a great role in my life.”