I can’t thank Lea, Mike or Returning the Favor enough for what they’ve done not just for Combat Flags, but also for Stop Soldier Suicide. I watched the Stop Soldier Suicide Facebook page the night the Combat Flags episode aired and was left speechless at how many of you liked the page and left comments. I was humbled to hear from so many of you via email telling me you had personally donated to Stop Soldier Suicide.
That night was a blur. We’d been home maybe 48 hours with the baby and were still adjusting to, well, everything. And, to be completely honest, I had completely forgotten the episode was airing... until we woke up to feed the boy just after midnight. I glanced at my phone to take a note on something and saw notification badges and alerts one after the other. Ah, yes, Returning the Favor was in full effect.
From that point on the mad dash started.
Since that whirlwind of a night, the trajectory of Combat Flags has changed. I’ve talked with thousands of you via email, Facebook messenger, Instagram messenger and even LinkedIn this year. You’ve told me stories of your service, you’ve told me stories of loved ones who have committed suicide following a deployment (or multiple deployments), you’ve told me stories of loved ones who were killed on deployment and you’ve told me stories of hope.
I hear these stories and feel them deeply. You see, these stories are what keep Combat Flags moving. These stories are what make the do-gooder military/veteran community so strong.
They’re stories of connection, resiliency and family.
2018 has brought with it many learning opportunities. The largest of which is time management, specifically allocating time where it can be best used. Unfortunately, sometimes that time does not go to crafting Original Combat Flags or responding to email/facebook/instagram. It instead goes to talking with bookkeepers, emailing vendors and suppliers or packaging orders for shipment. I’m putting more of an emphasis on this area in 2019.
Because of Returning the Favor, I was introduced to the Entrepreneurs Organization and was graciously accepted into the Organization’s Accelerator Program for small businesses. I cannot say enough good things about this group of people who are building their own lives and enhancing the lives of others along the way. The time spent with this organization in group meetings or individual meetings is building a strong foundation for Combat Flags to grow upon. To David and Jason, thank you for the time you’ve spent with me personally and for seeing something bigger in Combat Flags.
And, most importantly, Stop Soldier Suicide. To Kelly, Eric and Shannon, thank you for being wonderful partners. In 2018, Combat Flags donated more than $27,500 to this much-deserving veteran-owned nonprofit, putting lifetime donations over $40,000. And, just to keep the 2018 donation in perspective, 2018 is the 3rd calendar year of operation and this year’s total donation amount is more than a 100% increase over the first two years combined. Let that sink in... in 1 year we more than doubled what we’d donated in the two prior years COMBINED.
That means Stop Soldier Suicide is able to help 31 more Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airman and their families for 2 years. Amazing.
That number does not include fundraisers I’ve conducted via Facebook or auction items throughout the year (remember the flag my friend Benjamin Breckheimer climbed Aconcagua with that raised nearly $1,000?). If we were to include those donations, the total would be closer to $50,000.
To my lovely wife (the “Commander” as you’ve seen me call her), my mother and my friends, thank you for jumping in to help this year. Thank you for your support and sticking with me through this wild journey. And thank you for being there when I need to vent, brainstorm or have a mindless talk.
And to all of you out there, thank you for making 2018 such an amazing year. Without your support, Combat Flags would be a simple idea I had one day at work during a random conference call.
2019 is already swirling in my mind and I’m excited to see what the year holds. I hope to see you along the way!
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On the screen I saw memories of my old life, of my current life, and inspiration for a future life. Images of time in the service, images of the early days of Combat Flags and images of my family shone brightly on large, rectangular screens. A booming voice narrated, offering the story of Combat Flags, my story, to a charmed audience.