I’m going to use my space this week to brag on a friend of mine.
Jamie Popwell was born and raised in my hometown of Opelika, Ala. Three days after his 18th birthday, he joined the United States Marine Corps, and although he no longer wears a uniform, his service continues today.
Mr. Popwell is the founder and president at Flags for Vets, Inc., whose mission is “to honor and pay respect to a veteran's faithful service and dutiful sacrifices by raising our nation’s flag on a lighted flagpole that has been donated in their honor by a sponsor or loved one.”
Although based in Alabama, installations have taken him to 16 states and counting, including Texas. He has visited 91 cities, flown 13,675 miles, and driven an additional 33,263 miles. That is true dedication.
“I felt that with all the media coverage surrounding the “right” to burn the flag, step on it, or desecrate it in any way, that there was a need to counter that with a show of respect for those that fought for that very freedom,” he says.
Flags for Vets supplies a flagpole and a flag for a veteran at no charge to them. The expenses are covered through donations and sponsorships. We stand around watching the concrete dry, so to speak,” says Popwell. “We get to know a little about them and their service.”
Each installation costs roughly $125. In addition to the flag and flagpole, the cost includes a solar mounted light and bags of white marble rock and Quikrete. Popwell covered the initial costs but word quickly spread, and donations started coming in from people wanting to sponsor a veteran. Family members sponsoring family members and friends sponsoring friends.
Flags For Vets has now honored 185 veterans. Among the sea of recipients are eight servicemembers who were awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest honor. The oldest veteran was 97, while the youngest was 25.
The most remarkable aspect is that all of this has been done in the past year. The first install took place on Jan. 27 and the 185th took place on Dec. 30. Popwell’s goal for the first year is to reach 200 veterans and is on pace to do that.
His goal for 2018 is to honor 300 veterans and to visit 10 more states. He’s very confident in his ability to reach these goals.
“My love for my country is second only to God and my family,” Popwell passionately states. “I developed an idea to pay it forward to our veterans in recognition for their service and sacrifice to our nation.
I’m truly amazed at what he’s been able to do in just one year. He’s impacted lives in ways that can’t be quantified. What can you do in 2018? You can honor a veteran through Flags For Vets, you can volunteer for something that is near and dear to your heart, or you can do something on your own. Just do something. Make 2018 a year of giving, and when you do that, trust me, you will be the one receiving.
Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com