Skilled Hands Coming Together to Support Veterans
by Wayne Kruger
July 16, 2020 marked a very special day when two of our local community organizations came together to support Veterans. On that day, fourteen handmade memorial flag cases were turned over by the newly formed group St. James Woodworkers to the Richard H. Stewart Jr., St. James, NC American Legion Post 543.
How did this occur? A few months ago, St. James Woodworkers treasurer and community service project coordinator Wayne Kruger reached out to American Legion Post Commander George Freeman. It was discussed that St. James Woodworkers wished to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families by making memorial flag cases to properly display the casket-size flag that is presented to families of fallen veterans. In turn, American Legion Post 543 would incorporate the presentation of these cases into its formal honoring of our fallen ceremony. The idea was enthusiastically embraced by Commander Freeman as it was already an ongoing service project of the Post.
But it was a project that was fraught with frustration as the Post found most commercially available flag cases were not made in the USA nor of the quality desired. American Legion Post 543 has an ongoing relationship with several funeral homes to provide an honor guard contingent at veteran funerals and at that time the flag case is presented. The flag cases become treasured family heirlooms as they remember their loved one and their service to our country. The two organizations felt strongly that an incredibly special aspect of the two organizations coming together was the opportunity for non-veterans to actively support the veteran community. While some members of St. James Woodworkers are veterans, the majority are not.
With American Legion support to fund the tooling and materials, the St. James Woodworkers group rapidly engaged. At one of its first organizational meetings in February 2020 (pre-COVID19), Wayne Kruger described the flag case community service project to John Boughton, one of 50-plus members in the group. John accepted the role of project lead. At the same meeting a call for volunteers to work with John was answered by Dick Meyer, John Louder, Joe Zukowski, Warren Cox and Ron Collier. Unique tasks were assigned to each.
• John Boughton and George Freeman worked closely together to create the design.
• John Boughton reached out to John Dinyovszky, owner of Marsh Point Enterprises (a local cabinetmaker on 211 in Sentry Business Park) to procure the African mahogany, or sapele, as well as have a custom cutter head made for his milling machine to produce required moldings. Upon receipt of the wood, the two men milled the project lumber. John Boughton then brought the lumber home and cut it into proper lengths, cut and routed the front bottom moldings.
• John Louder next took the wood stock making precise 22.5- and 45-degree cuts on all component parts.
• Ron Collier cut biscuit joints and joined all the pieces together. Additionally, Ron provided the “finishing” workshop.
• Dick Meyer attached all bottom moldings to the cases.
• Joe Zukowski picked up the faced plywood for the backs and made a template for the glass that was to be placed inside the case. Joe also spray-painted the solid wood backs black.
• John Boughton Warren Cox, Joe Zukowski and Ron Collier applied a special finishing mixture that included polyurethane for a beautiful finish to the African mahogany.
• Warren Cox had labels printed with the words Wayne Kruger had written: “Handmade for American Legion Post 543 by St. James Woodworkers to honor the service and sacrifice of Veterans and their families.” Additionally, Warren placed all the glass into the cases and fastened it with silicone. Brunswick Glass of Southport proved the pane glass at a discount in their ongoing support to Veterans. To complete the fourteen cases, Warren waxed all the cases to a soft satin finish and attached felt pads to the bases.
• Project completed despite COVID19! As the five-month project wrapped up the group consensus was that it was an honor to make the flag cases to honor veterans and the project became a great opportunity for fellowship with fellow St. James Woodworker members. As Commander Freeman noted during his acceptance of the flag cases; “These cases were made by many hands, each infusing love into their work that will be carried forward. This is an excellent example of individuals coming together and combining their unique skills, successfully yielding an exceptional outcome to serve veterans and their families.”
St. James Woodworkers is a group of hobbyist and professional woodworkers from our St James community. A group of people with diverse woodworking interests ranging from furniture making, carving, wood turning, boat building and art using wood. During non-COVID19 times the group meets on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at the St. James Community Center September-May with shop tours and field trips mixed in. All are welcome regardless of skill level. Members will share their ideas and expertise in shop setup, project methods, tools and more. If your interested in learning more or how to join, please go to the following website: StJamesWoodworkers.org