Sigma Phi Epsilon will donate to soldiers abroad by designing its rush T-shirts from Salute the Brave, a retailer dedicated to supporting the military and making donations to service members.

Every year, the fraternity members design T-shirts that promote their organization for rush week. Salute the Brave produces shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other items with the organization's emblem on the front. For every piece of merchandise purchased, Salute the Brave donates a T-shirt to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to soldiers abroad.

Each T-shirt sent to a soldier reads, "Free Because of Me," on the back. Fifty-six T-shirts will be donated because of Sig Ep's purchase and will read, "Shirt donated by Sigma Phi Epsilon, Alpha Chapter, Virginia."

Senior Roger Mancusi presented the idea to use this company to his fraternity brothers when they were trying to decide the design of the T-shirts for the year.

Mancusi said his organization would be using the shirts as a rush tactic to show what Sig Ep stood for.

"We all agreed on the idea and can bond over supporting the troops," he said. "We live pretty privileged lives here but there are still people all over the world that are fighting for our freedom."

Salute the Brave began as a class project created by a now senior at the University of Southern California, Ryan Morris, who played high school football with recent Richmond graduate and member of Sig Ep, Sam Foster, Foster said. Morris decided to really invest his time into the company after he was cut from the USC baseball team his sophomore year, Foster said.

The inspiration for the company came from his and Morris' high school friends who attended West Point and some other military members Morris had met at USC, Foster said.

Foster sent an email to his fraternity brothers expressing regret for never becoming more involved in the company as a campus rep when he was still at Richmond, he said. Now he encourages everyone to look at the website and order its products.

Foster said his friend's success had grown when the company began making T-shirts. Before, they had offered only hats.

The fraternity will wear shirts that have the Salute the Brave emblem on the front with their Greek letters. The back will have a picture of four soldiers holding a Sig Ep flag in front of a helicopter, Mancusi said, and the text on the back will read, "Loved or hated but never ignored."

Junior Sam Lerner said he was happy his fraternity had decided to use Salute the Brave for its T-shirts.

"It's something bigger than just a rush shirt," Lerner said."I'm proud we were able to pull something together."

Foster agreed. "Even talking to my friends at West Point and soldiers who haven't received a package, they are really grateful," he said. "The fact that a senior in college is doing this is really cool."

Contact staff writer Brittany Brady at brittany.brady@richmond.edu.

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