Hero Cards picture deceased veterans of all U.S. wars, serving to educate future generations and instill gratitude while honoring the fallen.
“Our mission is to honor the sacrifices made by every member of the U.S. military — from the Revolutionary War to present day — who lost their lives while serving our country. We are creating a Hero Card for every fallen service member, and a permanent online archive to preserve each of their stories for future generations,” said company co-founder Craig Du Mez.
The idea emanated from co-founder and Army officer Dale Kooyenga, who, at the time, was a member of the Wisconsin Assembly. Currently a member of the Wisconsin Senate, he said he always participated in the state’s Memorial Day parade, but he felt deeply that there was more that could be done.
“It’s a day to set aside to honor the fallen and the concept of Hero Cards helps to do that,” explained Kooyenga, an Iraqi War veteran and currently a major in the Army Reserve.
He recently announced he would not seek re-election to the state Senate, citing his commitments to the U.S. Army, his private sector career and his four children as reasons for stepping down from public service.
Many adults remember baseball cards they collected as a kid, pieces of cardboard inserted into wax paper wrappers, often accompanied by a flat piece of chewing gum. Such cards have been popular in the United States for many years. Other sports jumped on the bandwagon and soon basketball, soccer, hockey and others were being printed and sold. The cards depict photos of players, as well as their names, statistics and teams.
Kooyenga contacted printer Du Mez, and together they developed the Hero Card concept. The initial card portrayed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Washington, D.C.
“We started off more generic,” Kooyenga said. “There are many individuals we’ll never know. There are too many unknowns.”
Du Mez recalls many Memorial Days where he handed out candy at parades. With the new idea, he was anxious to hand out cards of heroes, rather than pictures of baseball players and celebrities.
“I thought it would be very cool for our politicians to hand out cards to educate kids” about Americans who served in the military. “Hero Cards are collector cards honoring those who gave their last full measure of devotion,” he said.
Individuals who want to nominate a family member who lost their life while in the military can go to the Hero Cards website and download a nomination form. There is no charge if the submission is accepted.
The organization also actively seeks members who pay an annual fee to receive sets of cards each month, or purchasers can buy individual sets of cards. In addition, donations are accepted from families and corporations alike.
“A portion of the revenue from the income benefits verified, veteran-focused, not-for-profit causes. We are a veteran-owned benefit corporation, and we are funded by people who buy cards online, or who become members,” Du Mez said.
He is also seeking vendors and retail locations to sell the cards.
“The cards can also be used by veterans’ service organizations as fundraisers,” he said
As the company grows, Kooyenga said he hopes to have more than 50 percent of its employees be current reservists, guardsmen and veterans. He also plans to hire veterans who are artists to help design future cards in the collection, depicting America’s service members for whom no photographic or other visual record can be located.
All submissions will have details verified by Hero Cards staff prior to publication.
“We strive for factual accuracy and proper crediting of all content. There is no guarantee that submissions will be automatically accepted. The more detail someone can provide — along with sources for verification — the more quickly we can post the hero’s story online and print their Hero Card,” Kooyenga said.
For more information, go to www.herocards.us.
Chuck N. Baker is an award-winning journalist and a Vietnam War Purple Heart veteran. He can be heard at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday on KKVV-AM hosting “That’s America to Me” and occasionally on KUNV-FM hosting “America’s Veterans, Today and Tomorrow.”