Scott LoBaido on a New Mission for Veterans: Painting Flags Across America Tour
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Scott LoBaido doesn't like to cry.
But when it comes to veterans, the Grasmere resident wears his heart on his sleeve.
"It's close to my heart," LoBaido said of the sacrifices veterans have made. "I go around the country and bring the love Staten Island has for veterans to the rest of the country. We are a special community."
Wiping away tears as he spoke at the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis VFW Post in Oakwood early Tuesday afternoon, LoBaido explained the focus of his journey and the event served as a send-off for his latest venture: Painting American flags on either a Veterans of Foreign Wars building or American Legion post in every state of the union.
Lobaido said it's his way of recognizing veterans' service.
"I'm bringing it and I'm bringing it hard and I'm bringing it to every state and letting the world know and the country know and everybody else know that you guys and girls are the cream of the crop. We are nothing without you," said LoBaido, who garnered two standing ovations during his visit.
The gathering included numerous veterans and their families as well as post commanders from Staten Island and Brooklyn.
LoBaido called the American flag, "The most meaningful, the most powerful, the most recognized, the most beautiful work of art."
He said painting flags on veterans' facilities will not only be a reminder of their sacrifices but, when young children see the flags on the buildings, it will provide parents an opportunity to teach their children about those sacrifices.
LoBaido said he also wants to remind people that not all veterans are old, pointing out that many are members of younger generations, including veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Lasting approximately six months, the tour will start in the southern states with LoBaido's first stop in Fayetteville, N.C. He said it will take two to three days to paint each flag. When the mural is completed, there will be a dedication ceremony.
Loree Sutton, commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs, said that Staten Island veterans and the Island community symbolize the best America has to offer. She said that spirit was illustrated in how the community came together in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and how Staff Sgt. Ollis served his country.
The Staten Island hero was killed after stepping in the path of an unarmed Polish officer, protecting him from a suicide bomber, in Afghanistan on Aug. 28, 2013.
"You have a common bond to service to sacrifice and it makes me so proud to be here with you today...," she said. "This is the best of America right here today. So let's honor those who came before us, those who are serving now and all those who are to come."
Post Commander John Hojnacki said all the post members thank LoBaido for "the respect he bestows constantly to veterans. We celebrate your creative passion and your purpose in life. Keep up the good work."
During the event, Hojnacki read a special message from John R. Harker, the great-great-great-great grandson of the woman who created the first American flag, Betsy Ross: "I want to congratulate Scott on the kickoff of his tour, and I am pleased he will be celebrating the American flag, the spirit in which it was first designed, and what it represents -- honoring our veterans, who are true American patriots protecting our freedoms for over 238 years.... Scott LoBaido and Betsy Ross are both true artisans and patriots in their respective crafts and eras."
LoBaido said he will be visiting with Harker in Maine: "He's going to be up there and give me some good love," said LoBaido, adding Harker said he is a fan.
This tour is the third national flag-painting tour for LoBaido. This one is sponsored by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Home Depot, Behr Paint and CitiQuiet Windows.
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