2019 JEFFERSON AWARDS: Moline Teenager Makes Difference Through American Flag

He's working to make Old Glory new again.

Liam Willcox, 14, is known as "The Flag Boy." He founded the Flag Restoration Project in 2017, when a special guest visited his 6th grade class.

"A veteran came to our school and told everyone in the school about flag etiquette and how to properly treat them, because it was a subject that - at the time - really wasn’t being respected at all," he explained.

That made an impact on Liam, who began looking up wherever he went.

"I started stumbling upon all these flags all over the place, torn up, yard after yard, and I just wanted to go out and replace them," he said.

A couple flags that summer turned into a couple dozen. As of January 1st, 2019, Liam has replaced, raised, and retired 145 flags for free.

"I thought it was a bit ridiculous that I'm going up to somebody's door to ask them if I could change their flag, but now it's almost like common practice for me. I do it all the time."

Liam also shares his knowledge with anyone and everyone.

"We need to educate these people," Liam explained. "I am lucky to have been educated myself about all this etiquette and why just keep it all to myself when I could be giving it out to everyone else."

He's spoken at several events, received honors from the Rock Island Arsenal and First Army, and even a letter from President Donald Trump. He's traveled on the Honor Flight, as well as met with veterans and state leaders.

"It's crazy how quickly it's taking off and I think it would be a really good thing if this spread and his peers maybe saw what a cool thing it is to connect with an older generation, veterans who are doing their best to honor the flag and make sure we fly it with pride," said Detective Joe Kluever, who met Liam when he changed a flag at the Moline Police Department last year.

Det. Kluever, with the help of others at the Moline Police Department, decided to nominate Liam for the Jefferson Awards, a foundation that celebrates public service and the people in our communities who are changing lives.

"Not only do I have a new awareness for veterans and a new respect for them, but I have a newfound place in my heart for the flag," said Liam. "I can set aside a few minutes to give some good to the community."

"Give For Good" is a slogan of the Jefferson Awards Foundation and Liam, now a 2019 Jefferson Awards Nominee, is proving that one person can make a difference.

"I do see a lot less now," he explained. "Before I would go down one street and see, like, four flags. Now I go down one street and see four flags... that I've changed."

To learn more about the Flag Restoration Project, click here.

To learn more about the Jefferson Awards Foundation, click here.

Every Tuesday in January and February, WQAD News 8 is introducing you to our 2019 Jefferson Awards Nominees. Then, in April, we will announce our Jefferson Awards Finalist. That person gets to attend the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. this June and meet other Jefferson Awards Finalists from across the country.

The Jefferson Awards are sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Budget Blinds.

To see who was nominated in all four previous seasons of the Jefferson Awards on WQAD News 8, click here.

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