MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – It’s the most powerful and recognizable symbol of America.

It’s also with a veteran until it’s finally time to lay them to rest. If you’ve ever been to a military funeral you’ve seen the flag, precisely folded and given to the family as a lasting reminder of their loved one’s service and sacrifice. 

The Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard goes farther with their “thank-you” to each family. They give them a simple wooden box to hold the flag.

The way it’s made is giving a new mission to one small group of people. 

Every funeral that we do, their hands are in it with that display case.

Dave Schoenian, Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard

Every cut, every nail and every piece of each flag box is made with precision.

It’s much more than just a few pieces of oak. It will hold a lasting symbol of service, the flag that drapes a veteran’s casket when they are laid to rest.

They know what each one of them boxes entails. It entails the death of a veteran.

John Drake, Director of Correctional Hearing, West Virginia Department of Correction & Rehabilitation

You get drawn into the emotions of the event. It’s overwhelming. Then you see that when you walk away from that funeral, that family has a lasting memory.

Dave Schoenian, Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard

The Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard gives a flag box to the family at every military funeral they conduct.

It’s a powerful moment, perhaps made more significant because of where these boxes are made. 

Not all the inmates, but a lot of the inmates who participate in the educational program are veterans themselves. They take a lot of pride in their work, but they also know that each one of those boxes represents a deceased veteran, so I think it’s why that’s so important to them. 

John Drake, Director of Correctional Hearing, West Virginia Department of Correction & Rehabilitation

More than 500 flag boxes have been made in recent years inside the shop at Northern Correctional Center. 

We love the idea of them being able to have a sense of community and give something back.

Mark Hedrick, Principal, Northern Correctional Center

It’s a program of the West Virginia Department of Education and West Virginia Schools of Diversion and Transition as a way to give inmates skills when they return to society. 

Hedrick said the numbers speak for themselves. Education keeps men and women from returning to the prison system.

Most of these men will be released someday. You could warehouse them here and give them nothing and they return exactly the way they came in.

They leave prison without so much as a high school equivalency, there’s about a 70% chance that they return to prison. If they leave with the bachelor’s degree, there’s a less than five percent chance that they recidivate and come back.

Mark Hedrick, Principal, Northern Correctional Center

The program is bigger than just building a cabinet or a flag box. It’s about changing lives and giving back.

A lot of them come from backgrounds that are not so good. They’ve gotten into some instances of trouble in the past, even in the facility they get in trouble from time to time. It’s kind of amazing when you got guys that come to class and it’s like a 180. They stop getting in to trouble because they have something productive to do. They’re learning something.

Greg Bayes, Carpentry Instructor

They have contributed to the heart whelming effect that it has. I see the pride that they have.

Dave Schoenian, Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard

The Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard fundraises to pay for the supplies to make the flag boxes, so each funeral and keepsake is given at no cost to the veterans families. 

If you would like to support the Honor Guard and it’s mission, they’re holding a Steak Fry on Saturday, November 12 at American Legion Post 3 in Moundsville from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Tickets are $25 each and must be bought in advance.

If you’d like to attend, you can buy tickets at American Legion Post 3 at 800 1st Street in Moundsville or call them at 304-845-5220.