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MARSHALL – Some of those who pass through the doors in and out of the emergency department at Oaklawn Hospital may lift their eyes and pause for a moment to admire an artistic addition.
Above the doors for staff and patients alike to observe is a patriotic reminder of Americans’ many sacrifices in helping each other.
A sculpture rendered in metal depicts a tattered, waving American flag with a “heartbeat” symbol representing the medical profession. It was designed, created and donated by Metal Art of Wisconsin, based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in response to a request from Gary and Lisa Sands of Marshall.
The sculpture symbolizes “the sacrifices that Americans have given for the flag – the sacrifices our veterans and everyone make so we can enjoy our freedoms and liberties,” said Shane Henderson, president of the eight-year-old custom metalworking firm, which began as a whimsical enterprise with his son Justis in their garage.
Through the company’s “Flags for Fortitude” project, anyone can nominate a person who might deserve a special honor – veterans, current and past military and service members, law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, physicians, nurses and others, according to the company’s website.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” he said. “We read the nominations every morning and the ones that stand out are chosen to receive one of our flags. We personalize them and ask for nothing in return other than a picture.”
Lisa Sands, a lifelong Marshall resident, is a local agent for State Farm Insurance. Her husband is a former State Farm agent originally based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The couple learned of the company’s efforts through a news broadcast last year, and initially submitted a request for a flag because Gary Sands is a U.S. military veteran.
In so doing, Gary Sands included on his nomination form that he is a member of the Fort Custer Cemetery Honor Guard.
“Without my asking, they sent me one of their flags for the honor guard – no charge, and no questions asked,” he said.
There was a slight error, however. The customized sculpture he received had been designed to honor medical providers rather than military service.
“I told them I would get it to a medical facility – and, before I knew it, they’d sent me another one for the honor guard at Fort Custer,” Gary Sands said. “That’s the kind of outfit they are.”
Sands said he didn’t have to think twice about which facility should receive the first sculpture he’d received.
“The people in Oaklawn’s emergency room literally saved my life twice,” he said. “So it was a no-brainer.”
Oaklawn’s medical team “knew exactly what my problem was” when he was brought to the emergency department in December 2018, Sands said, adding that donating the sculpture represented his gratitude for helping him.
“It was one way to thank them, not only for me but for all that they do,” he said.
Henderson said his company’s outlay for its sculpture donations has amounted to approximately $120,000 but that the effort also stems from gratitude – for the sacrifices Americans make for each other.
“This is what we do for fun,” Henderson said. “This is our hobby.”
Information about the metalworking company may be found online at metalartofwisconsin.com and its patriotic donations are detailed at flagsforfortitude.com.