WICHITA, Kan. - A pair of local women are using worn American flags to give a special gift to veterans and active servicemembers.
Alicia Gordon and Anne Newkold take retired American flags. They wash them and then meticulously remove the embroidered stars. Those stars become special mementos, a way to say 'thank you,' to those who have given so much of themselves to ensure all Americans have their freedom.
With each embroidered star, Alicia Gordon and Anne Newkold hope to send a message. It's a message they include with the star in a small plastic bag:
"I am part of our American flag. I have flown over the U.S.A. I can no longer fly. The sun and the winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten."
It's a message that is incredibly personal for Gordon and Newkold.
Both women have more than a dozen family members who serve, or have served, our country.
"Without them we wouldn't have what we have," Newkold said. "They put their lives on the line for us everyday. They could chose so many other careers but they hear the calling."
It wasn't long ago that Newkold, through a Facebook message, and Gordon, through an accidental click of her mouse, serendipitously learned of a national project called, "Stars For Our Troops." The project gained momentum three years ago thanks to Susan Wells of Troy, N.Y.
Both women felt immediately moved to join in the effort.
"I was in tears and I said, 'I have to get involved,'" Gordon said.
The idea behind it: to respectfully handle worn American flags, meticulously remove the stars and package them in small bags to create a special gift for servicemembers.
"It's our American flag. They are carrying what they defend with them," Gordon said. "It's saying, 'Thank you.'"
"This way we are passing on the legacy of what our flag stands for to those who have defended her," Newkold added.
Since they joined the project, they say they've given out thousands of stars. They say each exchange has been a personal experience because of what it symbolizes to each person who receives one.
"It was emotional just like it is talking about it now, that it means that much to them," Newkold said.
Their hope is that with help from the community, they can expand their operation to try and touch many more of the men and women who have given so much of themselves to make sure all Americans have the invaluable gift of freedom.
"It's to remind them that there are those who thank them for their service, thank those who are currently serving, to keep us free so that we can enjoy the life we have here in America," Newkold said.
The women get most of the flags from VFW's, American Legions, and churches. You can get involved by donating a flag, working to help make the stars, or even by simply requesting a bag of stars to give out yourself.
To get involved, please visit the "Stars For Our Troops - KS" Facebook page or call Anne Newkold at (316) 217-2641.