By Steve Dunkelberger
Tacoma Screw Products, Inc. created an instant landmark that is seen by thousands of drivers every day when it installed a massive American flag on its property as to say thanks to those in uniform, past and present.
The calls, emails, and impromptu visits by veterans, family members, and current soldiers started immediately. It hasn’t stopped.
“The response has been amazing, everything from people stopping by to calls and emails and donations,” Executive Advisor John Wolfe said. “This is not a promotional thing for Tacoma Screw Products. This is a way to say thanks.”
That message comes through to veterans.
“The Tacoma Screw Products flag is an awesome sight to see when traveling in that area and can be seen from many miles away,” said 28th District Representative Dick Muri, a retired Air Force officer.
Muri notes that Pierce County is pro military largely because of Joint Base Lewis-McChord as well as the large veteran population in the area. But he also points out that young people around the county are also patriotic, noting that Pierce County has more Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in local high schools than the rest of the state combined.
Such strong ties to the military, Tacoma Screw Products officials thought, required a big statement of thanks as it pondered ways to mark its 70th anniversary. So everything about the flag Tacoma Screw Products installed at its Nalley Valley location serves as an impressive reminder of those strong military bonds. The pole stands 180 feet in the air and required a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration. It couldn’t have been higher than 200 feet because that would intrude into the air space for nearby McChord Air Field. It is tall enough to actually handle a larger flag, one that would be 100-feet-wide and 60-feet-tall.
“This pole could support it, but that might be overkill,” Wolfe said.
The flag itself weighs in at 150 pounds. It is 80-feet-wide and 40-feet-tall. It holds the record of being the largest flag west of Madison, Wisconsin, and north of Sacramento, California. The nylon flag was custom ordered from a company in Texas at a cost of $4,000. Tacoma Screw Products actually bought three to make sure the flag waves crisply.
The location at the foot of State Route 16 makes the flag wave in the faces of thousands of commuters every day. Members of the Pacific Lutheran University color guard raised the flag for the first time in late October. Lighting allows the flag to remain up 24-hours-a-day. Additional lighting and a monument at its base are in the works to further stand as a can’t-miss statement of support for the military-loving drivers as they pass.
“Everything that veterans see that is pro military or patriotic makes their hearts beat a little bit faster,” said Tacoman Michael Saudis. “Little things make a difference. This is great.”
Shaudis served in the Air Force Reserve for 13 years, which included eight deployments and four years on Individual Ready Reserve. Currently part of the Washington State Guard, Shaudis is also the past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 969. For him, seeing Tacoma’s newest flag brings him back to graduation day of his basic training and the swell of pride and patriotism that went with it.
“That stays with you the rest of your days,” he said.