Veterans at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center received a special gift on Dec. 18 when Daryl Thomas, owner of Diamond T Woodcrafts, presented 50 hand-crafted wooden flags to inpatients.
Muskogee is the first VA medical center to receive such a donation from Thomas, but he says he hopes to add others to the list as the project grows.
Thomas received many different reactions as he made his way across the inpatient floors personally delivering flags and expressing his gratitude to each Veteran along the way.
Coast Guard Veteran Joy Neal was brought to tears as he was handed his flag.
“I’m 96 and to have someone come in here to show their appreciation in this way just makes me feel good,” said Neal. He went on to say, “The improvements I’ve seen at the VA are unbelievable. I was so surprised that since I have been here, everyone has worked as a team. What I see is wonderful and I tell it like it is,” he said with a chuckle.
Army Veteran Kenneth Baker’s face lit up when Thomas presented him with his flag and shook his hand. He stared at it in silence for a moment, running his fingers across the stars and stripes and said, “This is beautiful, I’m going to hang it above my bed.”
Humbled and in shock
The event wasn’t just emotional for those receiving a flag. During his visit, Thomas had tears in his eyes as one Veteran asked his nurse to help him raise his arm so that he could salute his visitor.
“I have not served in the military myself, but I knew this was the greatest honor a Veteran could give to me,” said Thomas. “I was humbled and in shock and will never forget that moment.”
After visiting the medical center, Thomas has now had the honor of presenting 220 flags to our nation’s heroes and has no plan of stopping.
“I do this as a ‘no strings attached’ presentation and I ask for nothing in return, except that I be able to personally hand them out and say thank you,” said Thomas. “My goal is to convey appreciation through the ministry of presenting flags, and this project has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Words cannot explain the joy I receive when I get to thank our Veterans, young, old, male and female, it is just a tremendous honor.”
Even though he has always had a fascination with woodwork, the flag project did not come about until a year ago when his son’s school asked the students to invite Veterans to their Veterans Day Program. Thomas wanted to make something special for those his son invited and made each of them a wooden flag.
Making a difference
When he witnessed their reaction and how well the gift was received, he knew he wanted to keep the project going. A Veteran friend, who believed in what Thomas was doing, encouraged him to continue and even offered to help support the project financially.
“This has been a fun ride so far and I am looking forward to more experiences as this ministry grows,” said Thomas. “This project means a lot to me and I think I have found something unique that I can contribute to society and use to make a difference.”
Tiffani Mathews is a public affairs TCF intern at the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System