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Main Content

Giving Back

Unique flags honor military veterans’ service and sacrifice

By Noble Sprayberry

Photography by Sarah Conard

Horizontal strips of weathered wood, alternating white and red, rest in a neat wooden frame. A painted blue field of white stars completes the image of a rough-hewn American flag.

For Brian Frieze, these flags represent more than art. Made from barn wood, they are symbols of honor, sacrifice, and a changing way of life. And, they are also a chance to give back — a portion of each sale goes to organizations supporting veterans.

“I saw these flags as a perfect way of honoring veterans,” says Frieze, owner of Sangamon Reclaimed in Springfield, Ill. “Barns have been a part of our American culture forever. And making a flag from them, and honoring veterans with them, brings it full circle.”

Frieze’s father, Rex, worked construction and served as a firefighter.

“I learned how to build, growing up around construction sites,” Frieze says. “And being raised on a farm, I spent a lot of summers filling barn lofts with hay bales.”

Those early lessons proved key just more than a year ago. He had just ended eight years of service with the Air National Guard. His wife, Brea, was pregnant with their first child, Ruby.

“It was time for change,” Frieze says.

He now works full-time as a firefighter. Also, he founded the new company, finding opportunity in the changing landscape of his home state.

“Illinois is not as big of a livestock producer now, so the barns are being replaced with machine sheds,” Frieze says.

Then, a family friend mentioned his plan for a barn.

“He was going to have it bulldozed, and I said there was a market in that wood,” Frieze says. “He challenged me and said it was mine if I wanted it.”

Sangamon Reclaimed makes fine wood furniture from the aged boards.

“We thought about how cool it would be to build handmade furniture with some history behind it,” he says. “It makes a table more than just a table. It makes it a conversation piece.”

Then, they wanted to do a Fourth of July giveaway to help promote the business. So, they layered strips of 100-year-old wood from a white barn and a red barn into a frame. The stars and blue field are lightly painted atop the wood.

“As soon as it went on social media the orders started coming in,” Frieze says.

Designs include a Betsy Ross Flag, with 13 stars in a circle. The Thin Blue Line flag honors police officers, as the Thin Red Line flag honors firefighters.

Four of Sangamon Reclaimed’s five employees served in the military.

“We felt a need to give back to other military veterans,” Frieze says. “I have had close friends affected by experiences overseas. And the military and first responders see things other people don’t.”

Last year, the company donated more than $5,000 to organizations such as the foundation of Chris Kyle, the inspiration for the movie, “American Sniper.” Similarly, they have donated to the Honor Flight Network, which flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials honoring their time of service.

As a result, the barn-wood flags honor service to the nation, as well as provide a nod to the country’s agriculture heritage.

“A lot of people hang an American flag in their home,” Frieze says. “Making one out of reclaimed barn wood takes it a step further.”