In 1999, Derek Barehead left Delaware County on a mission.

The newly-minted graduate of Jay High School left to embark on his career with the U.S. Army.

After time in both the army and reserves, and as a military contractor in the private sector, Barehead has returned to his roots, to open, along with his parents Ginnie and Charlie Barehead, Big Bear GFX in Grove.

With multiple family members serving within the U.S. Armed Forces, the company - which produces custom printing for t-shirts, banners, decals and more - proudly touts the fact it's 100 percent veteran owned.

Decades of service

Barehead was a member of the U.S. Army Airborne, with experience as a combat medic as well as a member of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg.

Charlie Barehead served in the U.S. Army special forces, while Ginnie Barehead grew up as an "army brat" while her father served as a warrant officer. An uncle served in the U.S. Navy.

Now his nephew, Clint Rogers, a 2017 graduate of Jay High School, is following in Barehead's footsteps.

Rogers serves in the U.S. Army - with plans for jump school later this month.

Barehead served in active duty from 1999 to 2003, and in the reserves from 2006 to 2008. He worked as a private contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations, from 2012 to 2016.

After sustaining a back injury which has required a total of six surgeries, Barehead came home to heal.

It was during the two years of healing, he explored - with the assistance of some buddies - graphic design. 

He found the mental challenge of graphic design to be interesting. So working with his parents, and later securing a small business loan through the Cherokee Nation, Barehead opened Big Bear GFX in Grove.

He picked Grove as the location, because it gives him access to business not only from his home town, but also from Vinita, Miami and locals in nearby Missouri and Arkansas.

"I thought this was a place we could grow," Barehead said. "Grove is growing and we could expand with it."

As a new custom design business, Barehead can create items using a six-color screen printing system, or using vinyl in both a mono-tone or full-color process. 

He can create t-shirt transfers, decals, stickers, banners, removable wall art, small signs and more.

He has a selection of both Ridgerunner and Bulldog designs, as well as one-of-a-kind art. 

Since opening in March, Barehead has employed other veterans and non-veterans alike. He recently hired Cole Wheeler as a graphic designer.

"I hope that when people think 'hey I need a shirt done,' they think of Big Bear GFX," Barehead said. "Whether it's one shirt, or 1,000 shirts, we have the ability to create or print one shirt at a time."

With interchangeable machines, Barehead said a single shirt created using vinyl can become a multi-print screen print. 

While veteran-owned, Barehead said he hopes customers remember two things - the family proudly served its country, and now wants to give back to the community. 

"The political stuff ends at the door," Barehead said. "We're here to make t-shirts, to help support our favorite players and help out or donate what we can. 

"We're here to turn out a good product at a decent price - and be laid back and have fun while doing it."

Big Bear GFX is located at 204 South Mill Street, Suite 101 in Grove. For more information, persons interested may call 918-801-7670 or email d.barehead.bigbeargfx@gmail.com.