For the past six months, Staten Island, N.Y., native Scott LoBaido has been braving the elements while stroking his paintbrush back and forth across barren brick walls of American Legion and VFW posts across the country to thank veterans.
LoBaido kicked off his Flags Across America veteran-oriented campaign at Legion Post 202 in Fayetteville, N.C., back in Februarycompleted his 49th mural at Legion Post 139 in Arlington, Va., where Legionnaires and community members gathered Aug. 20 to help LoBaido celebrate.
LoBaido is no stranger to displaying his love for the American flag on virtually every type and size of structure that exists. “I've painted on every building you can imagine: schools, firehouses, stores, shopping centers (and) churches,” he said. “But this is specific on this tour, at this time, because our veterans don't get the love that they deserve.”
Once Post 139 Commander Bob Romano found out about the project, he jumped on the opportunity. Nestled in the heart of a hustling, bustling city, Romano said the post was the perfect place for the project due to its location directly off a main road.
“Every time someone drives by the post, I hope they get the same goosebumps of pride like I do,” said past Department of Virginia Commander Linden Dixon. Dixon hopes LoBaido’s initiative will inspire others to display their patriotism in similar ways.
Armed with paint and supplies donated by Home Depot, Behr Paint and other sponsors, LoBaido undertook the task of rendering his work on a barren wall of the Virginia Legion post Aug. 17 after Home Depot volunteers prepped and primed the wall.
The sight and sound of automobiles whizzing by and sporadic rain showers did not stop the New Yorker with the larger-than-life personality from completing what he later dubbed his “masterpiece.” Ironically, those weren’t the only deterrents he encountered throughout the week.
One night after LoBaido and the post shut down shop, vandals removed the POW/MIA and American flag from the flag pole on the property. The artist delivered a passionate response to the vandals during the dedication ceremony, stating that should they get caught, they should be required to spend a week with the wounded servicemembers at the local veterans hospital who risked life and limbs for the freedom they take for granted.
As his eyes watered and he choked on his words, LoBaido addressed the onlookers that came out to support him, opening up and sharing the reasons that have been motivating him since the 1980s to bring the “Star Spangled Banner back to life.”
“Back then, patriotism was at an all-time low,” he said. “Nobody cared about veterans. It is because of them that we have this great gift called freedom.”
After the new flags – donated by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine – were run up the flagpole, LoBaido dedicated his work of art to the men and women in and out of uniform, the post and the state of Virginia. Charlotte Britt, founder of Flags Across America 365, stressed how important it was to her to make the trip from Baltimore to support the project and also present the post with an American flag.
Residing in close proximity to Arlington National Cemetery, the mural was also created with a friend of the painter’s initials forever engrained in the brick wall. As a tribute to a friend who was a veteran that recently passed away, LoBaido incorporated his friend’s initials in one of the stars painted into the flag as a permanent and constant reminder of his life and service.
“That flag (the mural) will continue to fly forever,” Dixon said.
Before the ceremony concluded, LoBaido urged the crowd to go home and display American flags. “It doesn’t have to be a holiday to put up a flag,” he said.
LoBaido will conclude his tour in Hawaii this December just in time for the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.