HELENA — This past February, one Navy officer founded a shadow box business that brings light to the stories of those who have served the nation and community.
Enrico Baker is on active duty in the Navy and works in law enforcement as a reserve deputy in the sheriff's office.
He found Honor Defined when he noticed a gap between the items displayed by those who have served and the stories they collect while on duty.
"The typical tradition that we do in the military or even in law enforcement is at the end of a career, we put together a shadow box or a collection of what we've achieved or things that signify different points in our career, but we never tell the stories behind it. So, we essentially display the cover of a book, but we never tell the details behind it. But there are a lot of stories; if you run into a vet, they'll tell you different locations that have been, or maybe a friend that they have served with, or maybe somebody that they met while they were in the service, and the things that they've done. We wanted to capture that," said Baker.
The boxes capture stories, with a QR code placed inside the box. Once scanned, a web page comes up with an introduction, detailed history, and awards and accolades of the time served.
Honor Defined is made up of six guys who are all serving in the military or law enforcement.
The business has a pay-it-forward program, using community donations to make and present their boxes to those who have served. They have 40 collection points in Helena alone and some in Butte, Missoula, and Bozeman. People are also able to donate on their website.
One veteran gifted a box is Jason Poole, who served in the United States Marine Corps. He enlisted in 2000, with his father's signature, when he was just 17 years old.
In 2004, Poole was stationed on the Syria/Iraq border. Ten days before he was set to return home, he was struck by an IED while on foot patrol. As a result, he is blind and deaf on his left side and has severe brain damage.
This past September 11th, Poole was given his box.
"All of my information about the war, and I'm from England too, and it says that. It has all the pictures. I just started crying, just crying, because this was just very...emotional," he said.
Like Baker, Poole knows the box will allow his story to live on.
He said, "It is so special because let's just say, God willing, if I die or anything like that, this will still be good."
In total, Honor Defined has produced 20 boxes, and in March, they will start their March to Memorial Day campaign, gifting 50 boxes to a veteran in each state.