COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Nearly 100 miles from Arvada, Zach Smith began working on a symbol of Arvada police officer Gordon Beesley's valor from his woodworking shop after learning of his death.
Smith, who lives in Colorado Springs, was catching up on a backlog of woodworking orders when the devastating news of a fatal shooting, including an officer, rang through on his phone. Immediately, the Army veteran knew what he needed to do.
"There were no questions asked. I just got to work," Smith said.
About three years ago, Smith started creating the wooden flags for the families of the fallen. It started when Adams County deputy Heath Gumm was killed in the line of duty. Smith's shop is called US Veteran Woodworks.
"It just felt like something I could do even though I’m cities away," Smith said.
He said creating the wooden flags for the families is the best gesture he can make.
"I can’t go give them a hug. Most of the time you don’t know who they are — you just hear there’s an officer down," he said.
Smith was so moved by the experience of making a flag for Gumm's family that he decided he couldn't stop.
"I’m gonna do this for free for every police officer and firefighter that falls in the line of duty in Colorado," Smith said.
He's now honored more than 20 service men and women from Colorado by giving their families flags created in his woodworking shop.
"It gives them something to look at. It gives them something to pick up and feel, like they feel the weight of it and they see how much work I put into it. It’s overwhelming for them sometimes," Smith said.
Smith won't accept a single dime from the families. The wall in his woodworking garage is covered in badges and patches — more valuable to him than mother could ever be.
"So that’s kind of a collection of ones that I've built for former officers. They’ll send me patches and stuff afterward," Smith said.
Tough as a soldier with the tenderness of an artist, Smith is crafting up compassion for the families of Colorado's beloved heroes.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.