Flags of Valor
Dedicated to Remembering, Employing, and Empowering Heroes
From combat veteran to woodworker, Brian Steorts honors his country and its warriors with made-in-America products.
When Brian Steorts was forced to retire from what he hoped to be a life-long career in military service due to injury, he found himself missing the connection he felt to his country and fellow servicemen and women he experienced when putting on his uniform adorned with the American flag. Searching for something he could look at everyday that would connect him to his brothers and sisters in the military, he realized that there weren't any wooden American flags on the market that he could find. Looking to fill that void in his own life, Steorts dove into woodworking, a craft he had no former experience with, creating wooden American flags. Filling his time with a creative and hands-on hobby helped Steorts cope during this difficult period of loss; he had no preconception that he would also fill a hole in the market and make this a full-time career. From its conception, Flags of Valor was more about a feeling than a product. Steorts donated the first few flags he built to widows of fallen service members.
Steorts grew up in a military family, and nearly every one of them had seen combat. His grandfather was a master chief in the Navy; his father served 26 years in the Air Force; his older brother was in the Army, and his sister was in the Navy. "I remember watching my brother deploy to fight in the first Gulf War when I was twelve years old," says Steorts. "It was the first time I had really seen my dad openly concerned."
Following in his family's footsteps, he enlisted and joined the infantry in 1998, serving in the US Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. After a three-year commitment, he left active duty to attend the University of Alabama and earn a degree in business. Steorts wanted more than anything to serve in combat but up to that point had not had the opportunity. When 911 happened, he vowed to finish his degree while simultaneously learning how to pilot planes. He joined the Air Force ROTC in 2000, becoming an Air Force special operations pilot. After eight consecutive combat deployments to the Middle East, Afghanistan, and East Africa, he suffered a spinal injury and had to return home for surgery.
Steorts had planned his life around and sincerely hoped to serve in the military his whole life but was forced into early medical retirement after 14.5 years due to his injuries.
"I was pretty mentally and physically depressed at the time," says Steorts. "I wasn't deploying with my guys, I couldn't move around as much with my kids because of my recovery, and I had recently lost my sister. I was dealing with a lot, and woodworking became my outlet."
After watching countless YouTube videos and talking to some woodworkers, he built his first few flags out of pallets his brother brought to him in his garage. "I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go into business and had worked toward degrees and an MBA; I didn't know at the time that years later that dream would come full circle," he says.
Steorts knew he wanted to hire veterans, create a Made-in-America business, and give back to his community. He remembered the connection he experienced when he donated the first flags he built to the widows of his buddies lost in service to their country and wanted to keep that sentiment as the guiding motivation behind his business.
"The thing everyone always says after they leave a career in the military or sports, or any team-centered career, is that they miss the locker room; the people; the coaches," he says. "I wanted to create an environment where everyone had something similar in common, where everyone comes from a shared experience. I missed being around other veterans and wanted to surround myself with them."
Veteran Owned, Veteran Operated, Veteran Made... 100% in the USA
In 2015, he founded Flags of Valor with four employees, the first being his brother, and grew the company slowly with an old-school, grassroots mentality. Six months later, Flags of Valor made national news and sold out max production for six months.
Today, Flags of Valor has a whole team of employees, 15 plus and counting, nearly all of whom are veterans or military spouses. They have a 15,000-square-foot workshop where they produce wall art, household goods, and many business-to-business items. The workshop is outfitted with industrial machinery and many hand tools from their longtime partner DeWalt.
In the early days of the COVID pandemic, Steorts recruited his two daughters, now 9 and 13, to help create a wooden flag-making kit for kids. "The girls were home from school and not doing much for art, so we created an educational product—a non-digital experience allowing kids to use their hands and learn about the history of our country, which unfortunately isn't always being taught in the school system," says Steorts.
The team at Flags of Valor is constantly growing and expanding, but always with the original ethos at the forefront, "that veterans deserve opportunities, made in America matters, and we should never stop giving back." Flags of Valor has raised over 1.7 million dollars for veteran and first responder charities and continues to highlight veteran issues and stories of courage, community impact, and volunteerism. They've built and maintained a strong partnership with the Travis Manion Foundation and have raised over $450,000 and counting with them over the past couple of years.