MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Dan Berei spent six years and two deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in his U.S. Army uniform before exiting the military in 2009 and marrying longtime girlfriend Jen.
"What I found when I got out of college and back into the workforce doing regular things is, I was missing that connection to the military, brothers and sisters in arms, and the entire veteran community," Berei said.
Looking for a way to reconnect, the former Sergeant says he was inspired by a 4 x 6 in. American flag that was hanging proudly in his newly corporate cubicle. That small flag sparked a big idea to "repurpose with a purpose."
"This was giving everybody a chance to own something that was part of the military and part of history and what landed on was Combat Flags," Berei said.
That's the name of his project where no two flags are the same. He collects veteran uniforms from across the country, rips them apart, measures them out, and stitches them back together. Each flag has a bio of the hero who passed along their duty-worn military fatigues and a reminder of why it's so important that they did.
"Regardless of your race culture or religion you want to die standing, fighting like a warrior an american, so others won't have to. For those looking for a definition, this is the price of freedom." - Major Rusty Bradley
The young vet himself says he's fortunate to have the support system he has and knows that's not always the case. When he got back at just 23 years old, his family helped him adjust back into the community. However, he shared a startling statistic — on average, 22 veterans and one active service member commit suicide.
Now, Berei's looking to give back the same support he received, along with a small token of appreciation.
In just one year Berei has donated nearly $10,000 to Stop Soldier Suicide, a Raleigh-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing active duty and veteran suicide. He has done it all by selling these flags where he says, "You know somebody wore this overseas or at home to protect the way of life that we know."
A reminder that freedom isn't free and everybody needs a support system.
If you would like to support 'Combat Flags' and purchase a flag for yourself or a loved one, click here.