2013-03-01 / People


Grand New Flag inspired by father’s service
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Philip Kauppinen Philip Kauppinen Philip Kauppinen’s father, Arnold Kauppinen, came home from the Vietnam War after completing two tours of duty as a private in the U.S. Army, and he didn’t hear “thank you” enough.

The Vietnam War was the first of America’s major conflicts that was not widely supported by the public. There was no hero’s welcome for his father, Kauppinen said, as there were for veterans coming home from Korea or the South Pacific.

Inspired by his father, Kauppinen has taken it upon himself to thank veterans for their service. In June, he started Grand New Flag, a company that sells American flags and accessories on the web. Kauppinen lived in South Portland when he began the business, and has since moved to Saco with his wife of six years.

Active and retired veterans receive a 15 percent discount on each purchase and 5 percent of each year’s profits are donated to a nonprofit organization that helps veterans.

Arnold Kauppinen died in 2008 at the age of 62. His liver failed, partially as a result of toxins he was exposed to in Vietnam, his son said. Arnold Kauppinen didn’t talk about his war experience much, but Kauppinen said his father “went through his struggles.”

“I was always there with my mom and my brother to help him through those tough times,” Kauppinen said.

Kauppinen said he always had his father’s support for any new challenge, and he would expect his father would be proud of the new business.

“But If he was still around, I don’t know if I would have started the business, because he was part of the big inspiration behind it, so I might not be sitting here today,” Kauppinen said, “Which I would prefer.”

Last month, Kauppinen was able to make his first donation to a nonprofit since starting Grand New Flag nine months ago. He gave $200 to House in the Woods Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Lee, a small town 60 miles north of Bangor.

House in the Woods was started by Paul and Deanna House, whose son, Joel House, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq nearly six years ago. House in the Woods offers outdoor retreats so members of the armed forces and their families can enjoy the Maine wilderness yearround, from going fishing and boating in the summer to ice fishing in the winter.

This year’s recipient of Grand New Flag’s donation will be Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors in Virginia. It is hoped the planned multi-million dollar facility will open later this year.

The second way Kauppinen shows his appreciation is the 15 percent discount for U.S. Armed Service Veterans. He asks retired veterans to send him a copy of their honorable discharge document. That information is available to the public, but he does not post the documents to the website. Active duty members can email him from their military address to receive the discount.

Last month, Kauppinen gave up his full-time day job to pursue Grand New Flag more actively. He has recently begun attending more community events and reaching out to local veterans’ organizations to get the word out about the site. He admits he took a chance, but is confident the decision will pay off in the end.

“It’s a risk. Starting your own business is a big risk. If you play it safe, you might as well not even be in business,” Kauppinen said. “You’ve got to take that leap and really charge at it.”

To learn more about Kauppinen’s story or to make a purchase, visit GrandNewFlag.com.

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