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Monongahela, New Eagle honor veterans with military banners

| Friday, July 10, 2015, 12:51 p.m.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS GRILLI
This banner honoring Flight Lt. Peter William Bickford of Monongahela, who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, is one of the more than 300 displayed along Main Street in Monongahela.
TRIB TOTAL MEDIA FILE
William “Bill” Hyslop is commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1409 in Monongahela, which is coordinating the display of the banners in Monongahela and New Eagle.

At the rate they're going, people in Monongahela and New Eagle may have to expand their horizons with military banners honoring veterans in the neighboring communities.

“Oh, we'll definitely find more room if it's necessary,” said William “Bill” Hyslop, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1409 in Monongahela, which is coordinating the display of the banners in both communities. “It's a good problem to have; that is, finding additional display sites. But we are very pleased at the response we have received from both communities.”

Hyslop said there are more than 400 banners offering tributes to veterans in the two communities and “more requests are coming in every day.”

The unique military banner program salutes those who have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. The tributes are open to veterans of peace time and in time of war.

The 24-by-36-inch banners feature pictures of and information about the honored service personnel and are prominently displayed on utility poles and light standards along Main streets in Monongahela and New Eagle. They will remain on display through Veterans Day.

“They are a beautiful sight,” said Hyslop, a resident of New Eagle who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. “And it becomes even more meaningful — spectacular, if you will — when the (American) flags are added to the displays. We have received so many positive reactions from not only families of the honored veterans but also from people who drive through our towns each day.”

Hyslop, a 1967 graduate of Monongahela who received a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, said the Monongahela-New Eagle project “got a late start” in 2014 but really took off this year.

“Once people saw the initial banners, they began submitting requests to honor members of their families,” Hyslop said. “There are veterans, men and women, from all of the wars in which the United States has been involved including World War I. But I should emphasize that those who served in peacetime, in the United States or abroad, are eligible to be part of the banner displays. Some individuals have been reluctant to call attention to their military service, but the banners are open to all who served, whether it be active duty, Reserve or National Guard, past or present.”

Hyslop said it was “a natural decision” for Post 1409 to lead the Monongahela-New Eagle program.

“We are a veterans organization of course with members from both communities as well as elsewhere,” he said.

The banners are created by HTM Designs of Castle Shannon, which is owned and operated by Harry Munson.

“Harry has done a tremendous job with the banners here and elsewhere,” Hyslop said. “Some of the pictures we have received for inclusion on the banners have been difficult to work with, rather small in size and resolution, but he has done wonders with them and his expertise shows on the finished products.”

Hyslop also extended “deep appreciation” to officials in Monongahela and New Eagle for their “strong support of our efforts.”

“They have been tremendously helpful,” he said. “The street crews have done yeoman work with the installation of the banners on the poles. And I can't say enough about the help we have receive from the clerical staff at the City Building in Monongahela.”

Mark Gadd is the superintendent of the Monongahela Street Department, which installs the banners, takes them down after Veterans Day and stores them for re-use the following year.

Diana Barber and Karen Rice at the Monongahela City Building have taken on the task of receiving pictures and applications for the banners.

“We realize these pictures are one of a kind and irreplaceable, so we are diligent in making sure they get back to their families.

“The program, which started last September, has snowballed into a fabulous tribute to our men and women of the military — even a few of the four-legged variety. It has had such a wonderful response, and if anyone takes the time to walk — not drive — through the towns, they will get a better, more appreciative understanding of just how wonderful these banners are.

“I'm really amazed at how much Mr. Munson can do with some of the pictures we receive. They are not of the best quality, but he has brought tears to the eyes of many when they come in to see the end result.”

Hyslop also thanked photographer Chris Grilli of Grilli's Studio in New Eagle for his assistance in scanning and tweaking photos and sending them to HTM Designs.

“It truly has been a team effort,” Hyslop said.

The Monongahela-New Eagle banners are available at $45 each.

An $80 package also provides smaller banners for the families of the featured veterans.

“We (Post 1409) didn't take this on as a fundraising project,” Hyslop said. “The price of the banners covers our costs, but it's more important that we make this service available to the public.”

Information is available at VFW Post 1409, 793 E. Main St., Monongahela, or by calling 724-258-3013.

Banner projects also are being presented in Belle Vernon, North Belle Vernon, Donora, Finleyville, New Eagle, Union Township and Monessen. Additional information is available at www.troopbanners.com by clicking on the link to each community.

Hyslop is encouraged by the banners being displayed throughout the Mon Valley.

“There has always been a strong show of support and gratitude for veterans in this area and the banners in all of the communities emphasizes that,” he said. “It's rather difficult to put into words the reaction we get from the families of the veterans honored on the banners.

To have the widow or brother or sister or child of a veteran say ‘Thanks' with tears in their eyes makes it all worthwhile.”

Ron Paglia is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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