MIAMI (CBS4) – On a production floor in an industrial area in Miami, workers were busy on the eve of Independence Day manufacturing American Flags. The workers are employees of Goodwill Industries, people with significant disabilities, who meticulously manufacture some 500 flags a day, from the first stitch on the first star to the last stitch on the last stripe.
These are not just any Stars and Stripes. They are used for the funerals of military veterans and active duty personnel, those who have given the last measure of devotion.
It is a labor of love and joy for workers like Francisco Pinea.
“It’s good, it is a good job,” said Pinea, flashing a broad smile and a thumbs up.
The flags are made with reverence. At no time may the fabric touch the floor during the manufacturing process. It would be sacrilege. Standards are exacting, set by an act of Congress.
“When the flag is lying on the casket, people are not looking at the casket, they see the flag,” said Dennis Pastrana, President of Goodwill Industries. “Any imperfection would be noticed, and that would not be acceptable.”
Sylvia Berkley sewed borders around the edges of flags and said she was delighted with her job.
“I like it, I like it!” she exclaimed.
Berkley and her colleagues receive a variety of social services and about a million dollars a year in pay, collectively, that helps give them financial freedom.
Many of those working at Goodwill have emigrated from other countries. They are literally getting a hands-on lesson in what the fabric of America is all about
Gloria Murillo keeps a photograph of her son, William, a member of the United States Navy, on her sewing machine at work. She said she was honored to be making the flags.
Yamileth Miranda, echoed that sentiment.
“This is an honor, making the flags for all the people,” she said. “It is an honor for me.”
In addition to making flags for military funeral services, the Goodwill facility in Miami is one of three in the country that also makes flags for presidential funerals, to drape the caskets of presidents and be presented to grieving first ladies “on behalf of a grateful nation.”
What presidents’ caskets have been covered by flags made by the Miami workers?
“We don’t know,” said the CEO, Pastrana. “They never tell us.”