Bethel Park honors veterans with banner program

Published Mar 27, 2013 at 11:32 am (Updated Mar 27, 2013 at 11:32 am)

They look so young in those cherished photos that have been tucked away for decades, and although many of them returned to their lives, had jobs, raised families and grew old, others will always be remembered just as they looked in those faded, creased pictures.

Now, Bethel Park officials are looking for those photos to honor its military heroes from all generations. The municipality is becoming the latest community to participate in the military banner program.

The municipality and American Legion Post 760 are accepting applications from anyone wishing to honor their military hero on a banner that will be displayed along the community’s streets.

The military banner program, designed to salute the brave men and women who are currently serving and those who have served in the military, was created by Harry Munson, owner of HTM Designs and the proud father of an American soldier.

Munson designed his first banner to honor Ryan Lane, a young Marine from Castle Shannon who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

Soon banners honoring Castle Shannon’s military men and women lined Route 88, the main thoroughfare through the borough. The communities of West Mifflin and Canonsburg also adopted the program.

Dave Owens saw the banners in Castle Shannon and decided to honor three of his friends, members of the greatest generation, who fought in WWII. He also purchased a fourth banner for a friend whose son is serving in the Mideast.

“It’s such a great idea,” said Owens, adding that the one vet was so overcome with emotions that “he broke down and couldn’t talk for about five minutes.”

Owens said he was really surprised to see the banner of his best friend’s father as a young soldier.

“He looks just like my best friend,” he said. “They went off to war at such a young age. It’s hard to imagine. He went to war right out of high school. Everyone who sees [the banners] remarks about the quality. Harry’s doing such great work.”

Bethel Park Councilman Jack Allen, council liaison to the Veterans Memorial Committee, said the municipality plans to display the banners beginning at the Route 88 entrance to Bethel Park. The banners, which will be hung by the municipal public works department, will be displayed between Memorial Day and Veterans Day each year. The remainder of the year they will be stored in the public works facility.

“I anticipate they will go down Route 88 and Brightwood Road,” said Allen, a Vietnam veteran who has his own banner.

Allen said the banners would be placed randomly along the roadway.

For $80, a family will get two 24-by-36-inch banners – one to be displayed along the street and another for their own personal display. The cost also covers the bracketing hardware used to mount the banner on the utility poles.

Applications, which need to be accompanied by a photo of the service member in uniform and any information the family has about their family member’s service, are available on the municipal website or through the legion.

“The better the picture, the better the banner,” Munson explained.

One Bethel Park resident, who is planning on surprising her father with a banner, couldn’t give her name or she would spoil the surprise.

“He spent 765 days of his life in Vietnam,” she said.

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