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Braille American Flag To Be Installed At Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center

braille flag.jpeg
Briana O'Higgins

Thursday is Flag Day, and at a celebration of the holiday this weekend in Wichita, a different kind of American flag will be presented to the Robert Dole VA Medical Center.

One evening six years ago Randy Cabral sat down at his desk to create a new kind of American flag.

The original looks like an elementary school art project - dried flaky glue all over, and what looks like a senseless hodge-podge of colors and textures.

“These are stars that I bought from Hobby Lobby,” says Cabral.

“And this is sandpaper and this is just a piece of sandpaper that I cut out, that’s a piece of paper that I cut out, piece of paper and I glued one of the stars.”

But the finished version looks a quite different.

Using what’s called a thermaform machine, Cabral can imprint his creation onto special paper.

“It warms it and then sucks it down over the mold, and it’s a very quick process,” says Cabral.

“I have it set for about 2 and a half seconds.”

“And there it is.”

The braille American flag.

Cabral created the flag, and his organization the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute in honor of his father who was a World War II veteran and lost his vision later in life.

As I grew up it was a standing order in our home: nobody leaves the porch until the flag’s been posted.

Cabral says after his father lost his sight he longed to be able to see his beloved flag.

And though he died before his wish came true, his son is making it a reality for millions of other visually impaired Americans.

Many of whom have never seen a star.

“I have had blind people touch it and tell me, so that is what a star looks like,” says Cabral.

“They didn’t know what it was. Some thought it was the Braille letter G, you know because that was the closest thing that they could reference it to. And once I explained to them, that is the five pointed star, they would say, so that’s what a star looks like, they never knew what a star looked like before.”

Since creating the flag Cabral has given out thousands of paper versions, and watched bronze versions be installed at Arlington National Cemetery and the Kansas Statehouse.

This Saturday two of the bronze braille American Flags will be presented to the Robert Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, kicking off a campaign to have the flag installed at every VA hospital across the country, especially those with services for blind and low vision veterans.

The campaign is a collaboration between Cabral’s Braille Transcription institute and the American Legion Riders Post 4 here in Wichita. 

Post 4 Director Klent Harkness says they first got involved when Cabral asked them to fund braille flags for school children.

Then he said, they wanted to do more and funded the plaques for the Wichita VA.

“The American Legion always supports initiatives that are patriotic and have to do with our flag and getting our flag out for people to see,” says Harkness.

“And so we thought due to the disabled veterans that are involved in the VA, that it would be good to have something like that in the VA for them to see.”

Harkness’s wife and 2nd Vice Commander for Post 4, Kate Watts-Harkness is a nurse at the VA hospital.

She says while the VA has traditional braille signage up for navigation, the installation of the braille flag will bring something totally different to the hospital.

“This is a very important piece of information, of education to let them know that the flag is here,” says Watts-Harkness.

“They can read it to reinforce what they served. Possibly lost their sight while they were in service. So I think that is extremely important that that is there.”

The Harkness’ and Randy Cabral, will present the braille flag to the Robert Dole VA Medical Center at a Flag Day Celebration this Saturday at West Douglas Park in Wichita.

It will be installed at the hospital at a later date.