State 11: Virginia

Chantilly, Virginia, U.S.A. | November 09-10, 2017

Video by: Chris Blackert, MPI

Veteran: Steven Dean
Branch: U.S. Army

Artist: Stan S. Lee
Instagram: @smdesign

Videographer: Chris Blackert, MPI
Photographer: Kiersten Ladzinski, MPI

Venue: Alpha Industries HQ
Partners: Maryland Photography Inc (MPI)

State Sponsor: Alpha Industries


U.S. Army Veteran Steven Dean and Alpha Industries designer Stan Lee collaborated to create the design “Two Tales,” an illustrative expression of the dichotomies in Steven’s life in and out of the military. Following his family’s legacy of serving their country, Steven enlisted in the Army at an early age with the desire to become a pilot. However, after being in a unit without a medic, Steven decided to put his dreams of flying on hold in order to reenlist as a medic himself.

After two reenlistments and deployments to Iraq, Steven was medically retired and forced to transition into civilian life before he was able to get his wings. Overwhelmed by one side of himself being home and his other side feeling unfinished with his “other family” overseas, Steven struggled. With help from his wife and kids as his “home family,” as well opportunities from Veterans organizations, Steven realized the potential to peacefully unite his identity as a husband/father with his one as an Army Veteran. Illustrated by his lucky gloves, his dreams of flying are still within reach thanks to the support of many in helping him find himself again.

Through their design’s abstract silhouettes of a civilian and soldier, Steven and Stan hope to connect with others feeling broken, disconnected, and conflicted about the two versions of themselves, encouraging them to unite their renewed purpose and mission in life.

In collaboration with Alpha Industries, the designs from the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour are produced into a limited number of thirty-six t-shirts and embroidered patches. Click the product images below to purchase Steven and Stan’s collaborative “Two Tales” design exclusively on

 TSHIRT: $30.00 


Size Shown: Large (Unisex)

 PATCH: $17.00 


Patch Width: 3.50″



Most of what we saw in Virginia was what we could see while staying just outside of DC, which we learned is often referred as the DMV area (DC, Maryland, Virginia).

After our second day of the Virginia state project that was held at Alpha Industries’ headquarters in Chantilly, we quickly made it to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center | Air and Space Museum (which is an extension of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum) just thirty minutes before they closed. 

Tyler is super fascinated by airplanes (and space) so I was happy we were able to stop by. He’s one of those people who select a window seat and stare outside the entire flight, looking back occasionally at the movie he originally selected. As you’ll recall from our Rhode Island journey, he even went flying with our project Veteran who was just receiving his pilot’s license, which was very against his mother’s wishes from back home in Michigan. 

Side note — the museum’s security confiscated my pepper spray my mom gave me years and years ago during college. I didn’t even know I had it somewhere in the bottom of my bag. The guy told me if it really was that old it has probably expired and doesn’t work anymore.

All right, good to know, sorry I technically brought a weapon into the museum.

Anyway, they had all kinds of airplanes that I’m not even going to try to identify. Old, new, damaged, rebuilt, wooden, metal- you name it. I called my dad to ask him what type of plane he rode in during his time in the Navy. Turns out, they didn’t have that type of plane on display in the museum but I did have a nice time walking around naming all of the planes’ plaques to him.

Another thing we did in Virginia was visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day.

Side note número dos- to those who may not know, the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is:

Memorial Day takes place in the month of May and honors the memory of every service member who gave his or her life in our country’s wars. 

Veterans Day takes place on November 11 and honors everyone who served in the U.S military. It’s not limited to people who were wounded or killed.

Visiting Arlington on Veterans Day was particularly special because it is the final resting place of all kinds of people with all sorts of service experiences. Before I go into what we saw that day, I think the history of Arlington is super interesting. This is from the Arlington National Cemetery website:

Arlington National Cemetery is comprised of land that once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. Custis spent his life commemorating Washington and built Arlington House on the 1,100-acre plantation as a memorial to the first president. In 1857, Custis willed the property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who in 1831 had married U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Robert E. Lee.

After the Lee family vacated the property at the onset of the Civil War in 1861, federal troops used the land as a camp and headquarters – beginning on May 24, 1861. Throughout the war, three forts were constructed on the grounds as part of the overall defenses of Washington, D.C. In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, employment training, and medical care. A property tax dispute, amounting to just over $92.07 cost the Lee family their home and in January 1864, the U.S. government purchased the property for $26,800 at public auction. After Mary Lee’s death, her son, George Washington Custis Lee sued in 1882 for the return of the property, winning his case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Lee then sold the property, which by this time contained the graves of over 6,000 Union soldiers, to the federal government for $150,000.

By the third year of the Civil War, the increasing number of fatalities was outpacing the burial capacity of Washington, D.C. cemeteries. To meet this demand, 200 acres of Arlington plantation was set aside as a military cemetery.  The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, for Private William Christman of Pennsylvania. On June 15, the War Department officially designated this burial space a national cemetery, thus creating Arlington National Cemetery. By the end of the war, burials included thousands of service members as well as African-American Freedmen.

History is so all over the place, right? This place was once owned by the descendent of our first president and the dude that led the Confederate army then became a military camp during the Civil War, eventually housed a Freedman’s Village and is now the resting place of more than 400,000 men and women? Yeah, history is wild.

Arlington National Cemetery is huge. You go in knowing this but nothing can possibly prepare you for its size and scale. Your mind first focuses on what’s in front of you: white tomb stones everywhere. Then it clicks, every stone is at least two people, front and back of the grave. This isn’t including spouses buried with their partners. So you quickly do the math, or at least try to. It’s unbelievable how many people served or were involved with the U.S. military. You hear and read statistics but you aren’t often faced with a visual of it all.

Walking around on that cool and crisp November morning, we got to see thousands of others walking around with us. There was an event hosted at the amphitheater and there were rumors that Vice President Pence was walking around as well.

Eventually, we made our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where another event was being held. Different organizations from across the country and world were paying their respects.

Walking further, we saw the gravesite of the Kennedy’s and the eternal flame. An elderly woman in an Air Force uniform passed me. She was tall like me and when I greeted her, her smile and reply back left an impact on me. This woman must’ve been one of very few females in the Air Force when she first joined. Her strength and presence was palpable. It was an incredible moment I won’t forget.

Eventually we made our way up to the Arlington mansion that overlooked the cemetery and Washington DC. We stayed there a moment to take it all in.

As we headed back to the car, we noticed and commented on the meticulously kept hedges and rose bushes here and there. Life and growth amongst death. I think that’s what we hold onto.

In collaboration with Alpha Industries, the designs from the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour are produced into a limited number of thirty-six t-shirts and embroidered patches. Click the product images below to purchase Steven and Stan’s collaborative “Two Tales” design exclusively on

 TSHIRT: $30.00 


Size Shown: Large (Unisex)

 PATCH: $17.00 


Patch Width: 3.50″

P.S. We did technically pass through a southern sliver of Virginia on our way from our Delaware state project through a piece of Maryland where we stayed in Assateague Island for a couple days before heading to our next project in North Carolina.

It was an extremely long bridge and tunnel passage across the Chesapeake Channel that left very little room for error beneath the water. Thankfully Tyler was able to keep it straight and narrow through to the otherside.