Duane and Claire Swatosh attract a lot of attention while traveling in their tribute vehicles that are decorated to honor veterans, emergency responders and fallen soldiers — but their goal isn’t to only catch people’s eyes.
“If we can get one person to think about the veterans and the men and women serving our country, then we’ve accomplished a lot,” said Duane Swatosh, who with brother Claire, started Brothers with a Cause in 2010.
It took almost 12 years to finish building and painting the tribute vehicles — a dune buggy and roadster with a trailer. Now, the Swatosh brothers, both veterans, focus their time and effort on their goal of raising support for service men and women.
Just outside Cartersville on Route 66 at Claire Swatosh’s home, a monument honoring veterans was recently built and can be seen from the highway, prompting those who are traveling the Mother Road to stop by.
The monument includes a stone that pays tribute to “all the men and women who have and are fighting for our country to preserve our freedom.” A silhouette of a soldier kneeling at a cross was made by Claire Swatosh and a few family members, and several flags representing military branches fly above.
“When I was in (the Marine Corps), there were so many times that I’d leave my wife and my daughter at home,” Duane Swatosh said, adding that’s still the way it is today for those who are in the military.
“We’re both veterans and we know what it’s like,” Claire Swatosh said. “But this isn’t about us. Our law enforcement, our firefighters, without a blink of an eye, they will put themselves in harm’s way to serve our community, to serve our country. That’s why we decided to build the monument out here to honor them.”
Claire Swatosh said the highway gets a lot of traffic, and there have been times when he and his wife will look out their front door and see about 15 motorcyclists in their driveway. He has met people from across the country, as well as around the world, including Belgium, France and Australia.
Some of the people who stop are from families with a military background.
“They’re really appreciative that people do things to get people’s attention,” Claire Swatosh said.
The brothers have traveled around the four-state area and even across the country, handing out American flags to children and thank-you cards to veterans.
Claire Swatosh said Brothers with a Cause is funded by the sales of bumper stickers and flag poles, and any money that is left at the end of the year is given to other organizations, such as the Mount Vernon Veterans Home, Toys for Tots or Shop with a Cop. This year, leftover funds were used to donate nine flag poles to complete a veterans monument in Stella.
The brothers frequently ride their tribute vehicles in parades as part of the Patriot Guard.
Claire Swatosh had his dune buggy painted with scenes that pay tribute to service men and women and first responders.
The paintings on Duane Swatosh’s roadster and trailer honor the soldiers who have died. One scene shows a funeral service with “they have given their tomorrow for our today” written below.
The brothers also go to city fundraisers and schools to talk to students. During the events, they set up displays around the vehicles and teach students about war artifacts and the history of the American flag.
“We have our flag today because of our ancestors,” Claire Swatosh said. “But our kids today are the reason we can fly it.”