Dog Tag Brewing gets the job done with cold-eyed efficiency. The job? Brewing crisp, tasty 5.5% ABV lager and 7.1% ABV IPA and canning it in camouflaged aluminum inscribed with an individualized tribute to a post-9/11 service member who was killed in battle. To date, the company has featured 12 different fallen service members on 12 different cans, each detailing a service member's last sacrifice.
“I wanted to put something out there to help remind folks that these guys – the over 6,600 fallen heroes who gave their all – are not nameless, faceless statistics,” says CEO Seth Jordan, 37. “Like, ‘these were your classmates and your peers and they were off in war, whether you asked for it or not, and they didn’t come home.’”
Any capitalist enterprise claiming to be driven by altruistic motives merits suspicion, but Dog Tag stands at attention even under scrutiny. The company also donates 5% of sales to a charity organization of the family’s choosing. Jordan also works for Warriors in Quiet Waters, a nonprofit mentorship program that organizes guided fly-fishing trips for seriously injured veterans. And he's hardly raking it in. "My wife and I dumped our life savings into this,” he says. As for how he find the veterans he memorializes, Jordan's process is deeply personal.
“We started with a couple of families that we knew, and them from there it just went viral,” Jordan says. “We don’t approach them. They approach us.”
In many ways, Jordan – a Marine Corps veteran – is a career patriot. A former UH-1 helicopter pilot and Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Jordan’s tenure as a frontline player in the Global War on Terror began right at its source: On September 11, 2001, the Rhode Island-native was a fresh college graduate starting an advertising career in New York. He and a buddy -a fellow Clemson University alumnus - had just signed a lease for an apartment a block away from the World Trade Center. “We lived there next to the rubble as they were taking away the debris day by day, and it made me want to do something good,” he says. “I ended up leaving for Quantico, Virginia to become a Marine Officer. And my roommate became a medic in the Green Berets.” The two didn’t see each other again until 2010 (pictured below), when their paths crossed during Operation Moshtarark, the largest American-led offensive of the Afghan war.
Jordan left the Corps in 2013, after ten years – and three combat tours - in uniform. It was Jordan’s wife and now business partner, who told him it was time. “I was at Camp Bastion when 15 armed insurgents broke through the wire and killed two Marines,” Jordan says. “I was right in the middle of that, so you can understand why she made me get out.”
But Jordan wasn’t prepared to go full civilian, and Dog Tag Brewing has given him a chance to do post-military life on his own terms. As the company expands, Jordan’s next move is to begin hiring fellow veterans, as well as the family members of the fallen service members he’s committed to honor. But it isn't all about mourning, it's about understanding what the sacrifices of others have afforded us.
“We want people to have fun with and to be excited," Jordan says. "I want them to realize that when they go in their fridge and reach for that beer that, you know, we live in a pretty good country.”