As we travel the country collecting impressions, we take the time to learn about the people who come and leave their hand prints. This is the true meaning behind the Flag for Hope initiative—to unite one another through our unique stories, and to illustrate the impressions we make, not just with paint and canvas, but also on each other’s lives.
One story in Tennessee had a lasting effect on us all. Alexa approached us in Bicentennial Park last week when she happened by our booth. Although she was there to visit the farmer’s market, she was drawn to the Flag for Hope team by the sight of hand prints, which have a special significance in her life.
Three years ago this July, Alexa, and her husband, Gregory, lost their daughter, Audrey, in childbirth. Audrey suffered a heart condition and was unable to survive labor. The young couple was understandably devastated but they had very little time to grieve together. Greg, a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army serving with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) out of Fort Campbell, KY, was scheduled to deploy for 12 months in Afghanistan soon after. What would have already been a difficult parting for the expectant parents had become an unbearable separation during a time of unimaginable difficulty.
Alexa and Greg sought a way to stay connected to one another as they struggled to process their grief from separate continents. They had often discussed getting tattoos in the past, but they could never seem to agree on the ‘right’ design. After Audrey’s passing they immediately knew that her little handprints and footprints, collected by the hospital, would be perfect. Their daughter’s handprint was meticulously recreated on Alexa’s wrist, and her footprint on Greg’s ribs. The tattoos help keep Audrey’s memory alive and also helped both parents feel connected during Greg’s deployment.
“It’s a real source of strength, and a nice reminder. It keeps us close,” Alexa said. The sight of the handprints on our flag drew her in immediately. “It was so cool, suddenly seeing this group of people that wanted to talk to me—to hear my story,” she continued. “A handprint really represents that you were there, this continues as a permanent record, like the books at Ellis Island.”
Just as Audrey’s beautiful, tiny prints remind her parents that she was here, and that she was loved, our Flag represents the interconnected lives of the multitudes of people who contribute to its creation. With each impression, we seek to remind America and each other that this is a nation made up of individuals with amazing stories to share. Alexa put it perfectly when she said, “It was very refreshing to be a part of a flag that represents peace and unity and positivity.”
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