Adam Gordon’s Pocket Flag Project: A Tiny Flag Rallies Big-Time Community Support

July 30, 2009
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From the hands of children to the hearts of service men and women.

From the hands of children to the hearts of service men and women.

For someone just 17, La Verne’s Adam Gordon wears a lot of uniforms. As a black belt karate instructor, he wears a martial arts uniform. As a student at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Pasadena, he wears a culinary uniform. And as a member of Troop 123, he proudly wears the Scout uniform.

So, it seemed only appropriate that Gordon, who had to complete his Eagle Scout project before his 18th birthday, per Scout rules, chose to honor the men and women who wear the uniform of our U.S. armed services in their frontline defense of American freedom and ideals around the world.

Gordon figured the best way he could do that was to lead a Pocket Flag Project here in La Verne where he grew up and attended Grace Miller, Ramona Middle School and Bonita High School.  The Pocket Flag Project, based in Arvada, Colo., was started in October 2001 by some Boy Scout leaders who shared how they had carried small, folded U.S. flags in their left shirt pockets during their military service in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Some of these same veterans started working with their Cub Scout packs to help them provide flags to local members of the military reserves to carry in their pockets when they were activated.

Gordon had heard that the son of Grace Miller principal Deanne Miller had completed a similar project, and thought a similar project would be ideal for him.flag6-001

“I was greatly inspired by the makeshift memorial on Wheeler Avenue honoring fallen serviceman Cory Hiltz,” Gordon said. “That’s really the theme of the Pocket Flag project, to remind our service personnel that they are forever in our hearts and we will never forget them.”

With encouragement from his Eagle Project advisor and Christopher Phillips, a United States Marine Corps gunnery sergeant stationed at Camp Pendleton, Gordon sought to further personalize his project by recruiting day care students at Grace Miller, some 200 of them from kindergarten age through eighth grade, to help in the folding of the flags to which they could also add a personal note.

Working with Grace Miller daycare supervisor Deena Clayton, Gordon had to command his own small army of volunteers, including Scouts and more than 20 Bonita Unified School District supervisors, aides and teachers, to manage and execute the project. After demonstrating for them how to fold the roughly 7-by-11-inch flags into a neat tricorn-shapes that could easily be tucked into a breast pocket, each team leader supervised a group of four or five students.

The Pocket Flag Project’s official notes says, “A flag for your pocket so you can always carry a little piece of home. We are praying for you and we are proud of you. Thank you for defending our country and our freedom.”

To this message, the daycare students, some of whom have parents currently serving in the military, added personal notes using crayons and color pencils. They signed their notes with their full first name and last-name initial, along with their school name and upcoming class grade. Once completed, the flags and accompanying notes were placed in Ziploc bags with Gordon’s address so that should any of the recipients wish to respond, he can forward them to the students’ respective principal.

“It was really exciting to see the kids participate and get a sense that there are patriotic men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting them and their families,” Gordon said.

Gordon relied on a small platoon of family, friends and volunteers to complete his pocket-sized project.

Gordon relied on a small platoon of family, friends and volunteers to complete his pocket-sized project.

The notes were sent from the heart, but there was a little coaching from the adult team leaders.

Instead of writing notes, like “Do not die,” “Don’ t get shot,” or “Please come home alive,” kids learned they could express these same sentiments and honest feeling in a more positive way, such as “We love you,” “Come home safely,” or “Thanks for keeping us safe.”

“When a kid thinks of a soldier, it’s natural for them to think in terms of life and death and war,” Gordon said.

While some students folded one flag, some folded as many as 10. The remaining flags were folded by Cub Scout Pack No. 123, the same pack as Gordon’s Boy Scout pack.

“The kids were great,” Gordon said. “I had a blast. They had a blast.”

Gordon and his volunteers spent three and a half hours with students at Grace Miller. Overall, he has devoted more than 150 hours to his eagle project, far surpassing the 100 needed to qualify for his eagle.

“We were in the first classroom over 45 minutes,” Gordon said. By the end of the day, he acted as if he had been an old hand at teaching. He felt just as confident and comfortable teaching eighth graders as he had been teaching kindergartners with whom he started out.

The flags are bagged and ready for shipment.

The flags are bagged and ready for shipment.

“Normally, Adam is quiet and reserved but by the time he reached his fifth or sixth classroom, he was loose and free and easy,” added his mother Barbara.

That’s one more byproduct of the Eagle project. You learn more about yourself as you give back to others.

Next month at a city council meeting, Gordon is expected to present pocket flags to Mayor Don Kendrick, La Verne Marine veteran Don Burwell, and a representative of Lutheran High School, where Cory Hiltz attended high school in La Verne. He will also travel to Camp Pendleton to present a Pocket Flag plaque to Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Phillips.

With all but the presentations to make and, of course, his Eagle Award to accept at an upcoming court of honor, Gordon now will be able to more fully concentrate on his growing culinary skills.

Already a culinary supervisor at Raging Waters in San Dimas, Gordon can whip up everything from empanadas, albondigas soup and chile rellenos to bruschetta, tiramisu and spicy tuna rolls.

Another of the many uniforms worn by renaissance man Adam Gordon.

Another of the many uniforms worn by renaissance man Adam Gordon.

“I know my way around the kitchen,” Gordon said.

For now, he better keep his culinary prowess a secret, otherwise our overseas veterans will soon be asking if he can’t send a couple of side dishes with those tiny little flags they will be wearing close to their hearts.

2 Responses to “Adam Gordon’s Pocket Flag Project: A Tiny Flag Rallies Big-Time Community Support”

  1. Congratulations on such a wonderful project. All of us Kindergarten teachers at Grace Miller are very proud of you!

  2. The Marston Family
    August 5th, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Adam and Family,

    Congratulations on completing your Eagle Scout Rank. What an accomplishment! Chris just joined Troop 411 and we were forwarded your article by our Assistant Scoutmaster.
    We are very excited for all of you and look forward to seeing you and Michael at the Dojo soon.

    Tom, Jean, Katie and Sensei Chris Marston

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