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Andrew Dale started making patriotic pins as a hobby in 1999. But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, that "hobby" quickly turned into a full-fledged business for the former Marine.
"While I was down at the World Trade Center, it was sort of a different world," he told TODAY. "The attack affected my life dramatically but it also affected the business dramatically — people wanted to show their pride and patriotism. It had gone from a business just trekking along to something I didn’t foresee."
And that's when The Pin People took off.
Dale, who is also a retired police officer, was discharged from the military as a service-connected disabled veteran in 2004. A portion of his unit who served on Sept. 11, 2001 was also discharged and declared U.S. disabled veterans.
Members of the unit endured raging bodily infections, asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other illnesses, following 9/11. So Dale, 42, takes great pride in producing a product that recognizes the hard work of veterans.
"Oftentimes vets are sort of forgotten," he said. "They get deployed, sent wherever and eventually come home. People just tend to forget. I don't believe we should ever forget anyone who has served this country."
So when Americas VetDogs contacted Dale about creating pins for their organization, it seemed like a natural fit. The nonprofit organization strives to support veterans and first responders by pairing them with dogs that can offer both physical and emotional support.
"I couldn't think of a better organization to get involved with," said Dale. "I couldn’t be more excited to help support their organization and their cause."
The pins are available both online and in the NBC Experience Store. And to make the $10 deal even sweeter, all proceeds go to charity.
"Our part is just a little — but if everybody does just a little, it becomes a whole lot," said Dale.
Looking to help out? Meet Charlie in person and pick up a pin in the The Shop at NBC Studios on Feb. 1 at 9 a.m.!