Small flags send vital message from homeOnly soldiers on the front lines receive the small, folded American flags from the Pocket Flag Project. Many locals have helped in several different sessions, which consist of a group folding and preparing hundreds of pocket flags.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Only soldiers on the front lines receive the small, folded American flags from the Pocket Flag Project. Many locals have helped in several different sessions, which consist of a group folding and preparing hundreds of pocket flags.
The flags are meant to be a piece of home the troops can keep with them, a reminder that Americans appreciate and support their efforts.
Once folded, the flags show only white stars on their blue background.
The small flags bear two messages: One from the Pocket Flag Project is the same on all of them; the other comes on a card that the folders personalize.
The universal message says:
A flag for your pocket so you can always carry a little piece of home. We are praying for you and we are proud of you. Thank you for defending our country and our freedom.
Resident Peggy Jensen, who has two sons enlisted and one who just finished military service, said, “They want everybody on the front line to get a flag.”
She’s taken part in three or four folding sessions. She said she’ll be taking some flags with her when she visits with her son, Jesse, who soon deploys to the Middle East from Fort Bliss, Texas.
Jensen said when he deployed before, he went through the box of pocket flags and drew out one from each family member who’d written a personalized message.
She said sometime this spring, families will hold a community folding session at the American Legion for anyone to attend.
“Anybody can get them, you just have to order them…,” said Jensen.
Sue Vorwald of Roberts, who grew up in River Falls, is also president of the American Legion Auxiliary, Wisconsin, and a unit member of River Falls’ Auxiliary #121. She tells a story that illustrates the impact these little flags make.
Vorwald has also helped send out many of the pocket flags. She attended the AL’s national convention in Phoenix last year and said the highlight was when a soldier from California sought her out to return a pocket flag he’d received from the AL’s Auxiliary #121.
“I got goose bumps and I cried,” she said about the encounter.
She preferred not to identify the man but said he’d worked on a heavy-gun truck in Iraq. He received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart honors.
Vorwald said after he found her, “He took it out of his wallet and handed it to me. He said, ‘I want this flag to go home now.’”
Vorwald said no, that he should keep it, but the soldier replied with, “No, I made it home and I want it to go home, too.”
She said the rubber band around the plastic baggie was dried up beyond recognition. The soldier had held onto the flag since 2004. Vorwald said he had tears in his eyes as he explained that it was “time” to do it.
“Don’t just think they’re nothing,” advised the active auxiliary member whose father and brother both served the military during WWII and the Vietnam War, respectively.
She considers it an honor to be an auxiliary member and to fold and send the flags. Vorwald’s heard other stories about the small flags also helping soldiers distinguish ally from foe.
Terrorists sometimes disguise themselves as allied forces, making it difficult for troops to know who’s legitimate. Sometimes allies show their pocket flags to prove they’re not imposters.
Vorwald said that legion member Karen Huppert has two sons who are Iraq war veterans. She must have organized the 2004 pocket-flag folding session because her name was on the card.
People can order the folding flags at the official Pocket Flag Project website. Three hundred flags cost $70 plus an additional $20 for the baggies and cards that go with them.
The project asks for people to report back about where they send the flags to avoid redundancy.
Project organizers estimated in 2005 that they’d sent about 700,000 flags.
The flags come with folding instructions and require that folders must first cut off excess hem material with a rotary cutting tool.
The Pocket Flag Project has refused requests to use the flags as military or patriotic table favors; fundraisers; gifts for veterans, non-front-line active military, reservists, firefighters and police officers; parade favors; and handouts during various events.
The Pocket Flag Project website says its mission is: “In support of those who defend our freedom and our country.”
The project started in 2001 with a Boy Scout and has grown into a nationwide program organized in 50 states. People can either prepare the flags to send organizers an APO or FPO address to which they would like pocket flags mailed.
The site and local sources agree that there is only one official source for the Pocket Flag project. People can either send requests to this address by U.S. Mail – P.O. Box 740847, Arvada, CO 80006 – or go to the Pocket Flag Project website: www.pocketflagproject.com.