Castle Shannon man's banner project a salute to vets' service

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Michael Garritan Jr. smiles each time he drives down Willow Avenue in Castle Shannon.

There, hanging on a utility pole in front of Franco's Pizzeria, is a banner dedicated to his late father, Michael Garritan Sr., a World War II veteran who was wounded in Germany and died in 2012.

“It was great, just so great to see,” said Garritan, 67, a Vietnam veteran from Castle Shannon. “He loved it when he saw it.”

The banner is part of a military banner tribute program that started in Castle Shannon in 2009 and has spread through 14 other communities in Allegheny and Washington counties.

Michael Warhold, president of the Castle Shannon Revitalization Committee, spearheaded the project in his borough. He said the idea developed from a similar program in Leechburg.

Warhold, who is a Vietnam veteran, said he wanted to keep service members in the forefront of people's minds.

“I wanted to honor our service men and women, past and present,” he said. “I was thrilled just getting (the program) started. It is beyond my wildest expectations what this has turned into.”

Harry Munson of Castle Shannon designs the banners and has helped spread the program throughout the area.

“We came up with the idea and it just grew,” said Munson, who owns a design company, HTM Designs, with his wife, Tammy. “And it's been a very emotional experience.”

Banners initially hung in Castle Shannon's Memorial Park. They now stretch through the borough's business district and along 17 miles of Route 88. Whitehall and South Park plan to hang banners, and Carnegie and Scott officials have approved joining the effort.

In Bridgeville, officials plan to hang their banners by Memorial Day, said borough Manager Lori Collins, who had a banner made in honor of her father, who served in the Korean War.

The photo used for the banner shows her father and a friend on duty in Korea. She said he carried the photo with him, and kept it in on a table near his bed when he became ill.

“It just took my breath away,” she said. “I knew he was so proud of his service, and I knew he would be proud of me for doing it. It brought me to tears.”

Munson said that is the reason for the program.

“This isn't our business. We don't make a living doing this,” he said. “It's in support of the kids — support of the troops. It's not an individual effort. It's a community effort.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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