US Marine Veteran Korey Shaffer has been through a lot in life – from serving the United States at war to then having to go through seeing friends of his come back from war and take their own lives due to various mental and other health issues. As a way to help himself deal with his friends who had fallen while serving in Afghanistan and back home, Korey created memorial plaques in honor of those lost. He thought having a plaque would help the pain, but it was just too difficult and so he decided to gift the plaque to the mother of the fallen Marine. Shortly after, he started getting requests for plaques to be made and gifted to other families across the nation, and that’s when he decided to invest and start a business that could continue to help give back to Americans and help people like him heal.
That is how his ground-breaking, feel-good company Til Valhalla Project was born, and since then it has helped not only the families of those who have fallen, but others who have lost loved ones, including right here on the frontlines in America.
We spoke with Korey exclusively about how this all came to be, and how by doing this, he is forever changing the emotions and lives of those who receive his products and help support his growing brand.
1. How did you decide you wanted to help others through your idea of plaques?
Anonymously delivering plaques was never part of any plan. Neither was building a business around them!; the memorial plaques manifested purely out of the pain incurred from losing one of my fellow Marines after returning home from Afghanistan. Our unit was hit hard with suicide. The memorial plaques were made for me to remember my fallen brothers, but it quickly turned into me giving all the plaques to their families, so they knew someone was out there thinking of them. It was a snowball effect of “Well, I honored my fallen brothers, its only right if I to honor these other peoples fallen Heroes” thus, I became the plaque guy who would use any free time to build plaques and have them anonymously delivered at no cost. That’s where the tee shirts came in – to spread messages that motivate veterans and patriots while helping us fund our mission to deliver plaques to every fallen Hero (military, LEO, First-Responder). Four years later, you still cannot purchase memorial plaques from us; we don’t believe anyone should buy them; any plaque that leaves our facility is purely given on our behalf.
2. What is the overall mission of your company today?
Our mission is to save Veteran lives and Honor all of our Fallen Heroes at the topmost level. But at the core, our goal is much more profound. Veterans are taking their lives rapidly, and when we lose our Heroes, they get treated as numbers and become old news if they get any coverage at all. As the sole reason why our nation continues to thrive, our Heroes deserve better. So ultimately, our goal is to inspire EVERYONE to be the best version of themselves, spread positivity and maintain proper mental health while making tee shirts that allow us to save veteran lives through therapy and honor our fallen Heroes with memorial plaques. Our job will be done when Veterans feel heard (and stop taking their lives) and when every Fallen Heroes legacy is preserved to outlive us.
3. How do you feel or know that your company has disrupted your industry?
I don’t focus on how much disruption we’ve made. In my mind, we haven’t even hit 5% of what Til Valhalla Project will grow to be over the next 3-5 years. However, it’s hard not to notice some of the recent trends. We are starting to be seen everywhere. I remember running across my college campus to chase down a guy who was wearing our tee (we were probably selling about 50 tee’s a month back then), and it was the most incredible moment. But then, I would look at the giant brands in my industry and see their merch everywhere and say, “But our mission is changing the way we honor our fallen, wouldn’t people want that more than just a tee?” and that lite an inextinguishable fire under me. But now, I see us everywhere, and people are as happy as can be with their impact, so I’m sure that we are doing something right.
4. Why is it essential for people everywhere to give thanks and be open to working with Veterans?
My goal is to ensure no fallen Heroes go forgotten and that not only veterans but EVERYONE begins to take care of their mental health so we can stop being so divided and come together for the common good. I want to break down the walls at a massive scale, and excel past a clothing brand and develop into a movement that everyone can get behind.