CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Steve Gonzalez and his crew are usually building homes and cabinets for Coastal Bend families, but over the last few days, he has been making time to work on a meaningful project.
The owner of Estevans Homes, Inc. is making 13 special wooden, patriotic boxes after his neighbor, JJ De La Cerda, asked him for a favor.
When De La Cerda, who just happens to be the Nueces County State Veterans Services Officer, told Gonzalez the boxes would be used to store old, worn and tattered American flags, he stepped right up.
He even ponied up much of his own money to build these custom-made creations.
It turns out, this was a special way for Gonzalez could give back to his community and recognize a long line of his family members who served.
"It's a way for me of honoring them that served our country, because I don't know what it is to serve our country," he said. "But it was an honor when I would speak to them. Now that they are up in Heaven, it's my way of honoring through them."
Gonzalez and his team are constructing the boxes to be used for the upcoming KRIS 6 "Flag for a Flag" exchange program.
This inaugural event lets anyone in the Coastal Bend drop off a worn or tattered American flag at any of 13 locations between June 10-13 and receive a brand new flag. The new flags are 3 feet by 5 feet, and only one flag will be given per family.
Again, these collection boxes will not be set out for flag exchange until June 10.
Then, on June 14, all old flags collected in this campaign will be properly retired at a dignified Flag Day service at 10 a.m. at the Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery.
Gonzalez said he feels both humbled and honored that his boxes will be used to store the old American flags at each location.
"It means everything that we are going to have a flag that will be replaced, and we will have a new one flying up in the air," he said.
When Gonzalez dropped off his first box at the veterans' cemetery, it was greeted with gratitude from veterans who continue to serve: the honor guard.
"It's honoring the flag," said cemetery director Frank Newell. "It's extra-special (flag retirement ceremony). Not everybody gets to do this. We're lucky enough and blessed enough — if you will — to be able to do this."
Contact Veterans In Focus reporters: Greg Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org and Pat Simon at email@example.com