Passion project leads man on journey to helping veterans

A visit to pay respects to a veteran struck a cord for a man who decided he needed to do something for those who served.
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 6:53 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A visit to pay respects to a veteran struck a cord for a man who decided he needed to do something for those who served.

What started off as making cornhole boards has turned into a passion project for Joe Montgomery.

He had heard about an indigent veteran who was hit by a truck and buried with no family in a nearby cemetery.

“A few of us went over and we decided to go and pay our respects,” Montgomery recalls. “After the funeral, it’s always a very powerful thing to watch a flag come off with a coffin.”

With no family there, the veteran’s flag would have no case.

“Well, I went in and asked the director, how often they buried a veteran with no family,” says Montgomery. “And in five years, they had done it 16 times.”

Montgomery went to the store to buy 16 boxes to hold those 16 American flags.

As he looked at the boxes, Montgomery says he noticed something that did not sit right with him.

“And as I’m reading the names of these, these, veterans in their information right below, it was a second sticker on this box that said, ‘Made in China,’” said Montgomery. “I felt, we just watched a flag come off of a coffin get folded up, and 20 minutes later, it’s sitting in this cheap case from China. So, we decided, well, we want to fix that we want to make veteran-crafted burial cases.”

Montgomery tossed the cornhole boards and got to work to build something more meaningful.

“We went and built 16 of them,” explained Montgomery. “And we went over to the cemetery and we removed the burial flags and a ceremony and replace the made-in-China cases with burial flag cases that were signed by the veterans.”

That wasn’t enough for Montgomery.

“My father’s a Marine, and all of my uncle’s served in the armed forces,” says Montgomery. “I was the first not to enter the military. So, when I hit about 40-42 years old, I decided I wanted to do something to give back.”

He decided to call Arlington National Cemetery.

“So, I told them our story and on that same call, about two minutes later, she came back and said, ‘Joe, we want to get four of your cases as soon as we can,” said Montgomery.

That was back in 2015. Since then, Montgomery’s passion project has led to Patriot’s Landing.

“The phone rang, and it was an elder at the church next to us here and he’s an old Vietnam veteran,” Montgomery said. “He’s like, ‘Joe, still looking for property?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ He says, ‘Well, we think we’ve got two and a half acres that might fit for you.’”

Now on that acreage, near the Ark Encounter, you’ll find a 2,000-square-foot woodshop and showroom filled with items made by and honoring veterans.

“We call them products with a purpose for a reason,” says Montgomery. “So, the veterans come in, they kind of forget the stresses and worries that they’re dealing with at that time. It’s about camaraderie, it’s about trust, it’s about commitment. And it’s about creating something, it gives them a bit of a purpose.”

Montgomery’s not alone. There are many veterans and volunteers helping.

“Oh, this is everything right here to have a place where so many people were involved, donating their time and their efforts and their treasure to make this place happen,” said Patriot’s Landing Director Patrick Kanewske. “It’s just, it’s, it’s awesome. To have a place for the veterans to come and meet and work and commiserate with each other and just have a good time.”

But for Montgomery, it’s just a little bit more.

“He’s had this desire for many years to give back because his family did provide so much of their blood, sweat and tears to our nation,” Kanewske says of Montgomery.

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