OMAHA, Neb. — A nonprofit is providing veterans with disabilities in the Omaha area with new flags and flagpoles.

Cliff Leach and his family founded the organization 13 Stripes 50 Stars last year, the Omaha World-Herald ( ) reported. So far, the group has given flags to 14 veterans with funding from donations and business sponsorhips.

“These guys, every one of them has fought and their buddies have died for that flag,” Leach said. “When they see that flag go up, it brings up a lot of memories — some good, some bad — but it always brings up memories of what they served for. That’s really important to me and to them.”

Leach said he and his wife install the poles themselves. In exchange, Leach asks that the Pledge of Allegiance be said after raising the flag and that he get at least 10 minutes of the veterans’ time to listen to their experiences.

Leach said stories like those from aging World War II veterans are becoming less common with each passing year. He also said that many veterans who were previously reluctant will open up to him about their stories of war and sacrifice. He tells them he, too, is a veteran, having served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

“They start talking and then it just turns into a big B.S. session,” Leach said. “And that’s when the stories come out.”

Last week, Leach installed a flag and pole for retired gunnery Sgt. Tom “T.C.” Miller. The 78-year-old is a 16-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago. Despite having trouble walking and breathing, Miller stood up to salute the new flag in his front yard.

“It’s the most beautiful flag in the world,” he said.

Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.