Posing with the flag are from left, Employee of the Year Stephanie Brown, Vice President Millie Swan, Respiratory Care Director Donnie Shephard, Chief Nursing Officer Phyllis Chambers-Berry; Respiratory Therapist Hannah Speir, Emergency/Trauma Services Director Sheila Shappley, and ICU RN Anna Rogers
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (February 19, 2021) A special handcrafted American flag now hangs in the main hallway of Forrest General Hospital. The flag, known as the Heroic Flag, is the creation of 16-year-old Lorenzo Liberti of Lakewood Home, Florida. Liberti and his family chose one hospital in each state that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to receive one of Lorenzo’s handcrafted flags.
Lorenzo, a high school sophomore, said the idea for the flags came to him in 2018 when he and a group from his church went out to feed the homeless in his community. It was here that he met a homeless veteran who really changed his life. “Since then, I’ve wanted to reach out to help them (homeless veterans),” he said. “And what better way to help than, of course, giving back to the people who really inspired me in the first place.” Through donations received on Lorenzo’s GoFundMe page, he has been able to support the cause of The Yellow Ribbon program at Turning Points in Bradenton, Florida, which supports homeless veterans.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Lorenzo has now added healthcare workers to his support list. “We have a lot of medical assistants, doctors and nurses on the front lines, like my mother, and so, she really inspired me to appreciate them and show my love and gratitude,” Lorenzo said. His mother, who works with the Sarasota Memorial Hospital network, knows firsthand the challenges the medical community has faced.
Lorenzo crafts the flags, which come in four sizes, out of pine planks, which are glued, carved, stained and torched. The process for a three-foot flag, which weighs a little more than 12 pounds, takes about 15 to 20 hours.
The creation of the flags has become a group effort with the assistance of family and friends. His mother and sister both like to do the painting with Lorenzo working after school, on weekends and whenever he has time. Currently, the operation works out of the Liberti home, but Lorenzo is hoping in the near future to have a workshop.
Altogether, Lorenzo has crafted more than 800 flags and shipped them across the country. The flags going to hospitals are numbered with the Forrest General flag being No. 33. He said another 15 or so would be shipped out in the coming weeks.
A typical teenager who enjoys playing soccer, baseball and football, Lorenzo is also a member of the JROTC program at Lakewood Ranch High School. “I’ve made so many friends in this program, and I feel so accepted,” he said. “They have such a passion for the flag and what it means and are willing to support me.”
“Since March 2020, when Forrest General announced the state’s first presumptive COVID-19 case in Forrest County, the hospital’s administration, medical staff and employees have been committed to fighting the battle against COVID-19,” said Millie Swan, vice president. “The hospital’s administration, physicians, and staff have created innovative new technologies, developed new partnerships, and opened new clinics to expedite the testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients. Forrest General greatly appreciates the American flag donation and is honored to be recognized in this way for our efforts in caring for our patients and community.”
For his fundraising efforts, Lorenzo’s Heroic Flags have been featured on CNN, Fox and ABC as well as in countless magazine and newspaper articles. Lorenzo said the notoriety he and his flags have received is definitely a new feeling for his entire family. “We all flipped out, but have tried to play it cool,” he said. “It’s just remarkable, like a dream that I never thought would come true.” He has far exceeded the goals he set for himself in 2020 and is now working on his 2021 goals. “I’m blown away that this has happened ten-fold over. I’m living a dream.”
For more information, visit Lorenzo’s website, http://www.heroicflags.com, where you can see his flags, and find out more about his GoFundMe project.