Leesburg’s Local Celebrity: The Story Behind “The Flag Man”

By Sharon Shatananda

“American Flag Guy” Mr. Mike Sanders is somewhat of a celebrity around Leesburg. He is an over 6”0 man who wears incandescent biking gear while covered head to toe in little American flags, which he removes from his socks or bike and places around town. But few of us truly understand why he bikes through town for hours in heat waves or the freezing cold.

A few years ago, Sanders started passing out flags to kids, but their reactions showed very little emotion. “What happened?” he said. “From a country focused on we the people, it has become all about me. For this generation,” Sanders said, “we’ve taken the w and flipped it over.”

To remind Leesburg once again of the soldiers fighting for them,  Sanders started handing out flags around town to honor them. He said, “I want to bring the flags to people to make them understand why [soldiers] do what they do…I salute those guys because they put their lives on the line every day and every night making sure that people can sleep safely and well in their homes.”

For every flag that is put up in Leesburg, there is a symbolic connection with soldiers sacrificing their lives overseas. The flag motivates soldiers to continue fighting, even when they are so far away from home. Sanders also added, “It’s about the people [of Leesburg] who are looking at that flag, and we want them to be protected at all costs.”

Sanders believes soldiers should be honored because they put aside their political opinions, backgrounds, and prejudices in order to fight for “one cause: to save the country that we have.They wouldn’t get on a plane and leave their families if they didn’t believe in a cause bigger than themselves.”

Today, biking and putting up flags around town has become a passion. As Sanders watches  “people’s faces brightening up,” he knows he is doing the right thing and that his actions are having the impact it deserved.

Without looking back, Sanders has continued to do what makes people smile. Does he ever want to just relax instead of taking a ride?  Of course! But, he says, “I never get tired of making someone smile.”

Many of Sanders’ core beliefs come his grandparents’ lessons when he was a child and his own upbringing as a self-proclaimed country boy. Growing up, Sanders’ grandparents shared bits of wisdom, whether through teaching or just by example.

Today, Sanders is still sharing pages out of his grandfather’s book of life lessons, one of which is “it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have.” Sanders’ grandfather “left behind the wish to be known as someone who tried to help.” Those words are part of the reason Sanders does what he does. He concluded, “You can have lots of stuff, but that doesn’t matter. It’s all about how you used what you were given.”