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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
Navy Veteran Repairs FHCC Flagpole
By Nickolas Sanchez, Lovell FHCC Public Affairs Specialist
Friday, June 24, 2022NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. – Todd Ross, owner of Raising Freedom flagpole repair and maintenance, was driving down Buckley Road, in North Chicago, Ill., when he noticed something wasn’t right, something he has an eye for after over 15 years in the business. He noticed a flagpole without a flag.
Ross, a Navy veteran, is based out of Denver but recently he was in the area for work. He had already completed jobs in the Wisconsin Dells, Milwaukee area, and around Chicago. With his free time, Ross decided to visit a place he feels some connections with. He stopped by Naval Station Great Lakes, where he completed Boot Camp back in 1980, and where his son did the same in 2010.
While driving to the Navy base, he passed Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC), noticed an unused flagpole, and decided to stop and ask if he could help. That’s how he got started in this business more than 15 years ago. Back then, he was working in the aviation industry, using his skills gained in the Navy aboard the P-3 Orion, as a radar operator. One day, he was driving home after work and counted 42 flagpoles without flags. After a little research, he learned that people weren’t raising flags on their poles because they had no means of making repairs. Most of the flagpoles were very tall, or on top of buildings, out of the reach of the average crane. Ross figured with his skills learned in the Navy, and his recreational climbing background, he could be of service.
Shortly after that moment, he came to realize this was the perfect job for him. “I should have been doing this job my whole life,” Ross said. “If I would have known this was a profession as a kid, I would of went right into it.” As a child, Ross loved seeking adventure and climbing in his home state of South Dakota. While in the Navy, he had opportunities to climb in Scotland and Iceland but had never heard of the profession of Steeplejack, a flagpole climber, a job where he could utilize his unique set of skills.
At first, Ross offered his repairs to people for free, with just one catch. “I asked everyone I helped to donate to a veteran charity organization in return for my services,” Ross said, “but for some reason, even when you are offering help, people don’t trust you when you say something is free, so I ended up deciding to quit my job and start my own business.” That’s when Raising Freedom was created.
The flagpole in question at Lovell FHCC is roughly 80 feet tall, and unreachable by any ladders used at the facility. Lovell FHCC Facility Operations Specialist Derrik Heinzen said the flagpole needed a new rope, and the facility had to enlist help from the Federal Fire Department to get the old flag down., “We were waiting for Fed Fire to be available to bring over their tall lift so we could repair the rope and pole, and raise the new flag, but then Todd walked in and said he was in town for a day, and could come back and help us right away, and that he would be happy to do it for free,” Heinzen said. The next morning, after Ross bumped back his flight home, both men met under the flagpole and got to work. Heinzen had the materials needed, and Ross had his tools. The tools needed were a harness, a set of metal Slavonian climbing shoes, and his bare hands. After a few trips up and down the flagpole, and about an hour and a half of work, Ross had the flagpole ready for a new flag.
FHCC police were on location ready to raise the new flag as soon as the job was done. Ross, for his part, was satisfied with a job well done but was already planning a trip back. “After I finished with that flagpole, we went around and looked at some of the other poles on campus. There are a few that could use a fresh coat of paint, and I’d be happy to help, Ross said.
Just like when he started his business, Ross left Lovell FHCC with a promise to return and help more. Ross said he was already scheduling jobs for a return trip to the Chicago area, and he hopes to come back to the Lovell FHCC campus and help restore some more flagpoles.