Traveling through a small Ohio town last August, truck driver Bill Eberly was inspired. Attached to light poles were yellow and white signs displaying photos of the community’s military veterans.
The Wauseon resident was so taken by Elmwood, Ohio’s appreciation for its veterans’ service that he knew he must share the idea back home. “Our city needs to support our veterans and our military men and women,” he said.
The result was 24 similar banners of Wauseon’s military finest placed around the city this past spring, and another 22 being prepared to debut. Eberly and his partners in the project, Chad and Jodi Posey, said it’s the least the city can do for its citizens in uniform.
“We’ve had people tell us their appreciation for us doing it. We don’t want the thank-yous. The thank-yous should go to the people on the banners,” he said.
When he brought the idea to Wauseon City Council last summer he discovered the Poseys had already approached the city with a similar plan. Eberly had grown up with Jodi Posey, and so contacted the couple to join forces on the project.
“We just ran with it,” he said.
Over the next several months they brought on sponsors such as VFW Post #7424, American Legion Post #265, private citizens, and local businesses. With about $3,600 in donations, Eberly and the Poseys had Tomahawk Printing on Fulton Street design a weather-proof red and blue sign with an individual local veteran’s photo, branch of military, rank, and duration of service on each side.
Earlier this year, Eberly and Chad Posey brought the prototype to City Council members Steve Schneider, Pat Griggs, and Harold Stickley to pitch the idea. The councilors presented the project at a Council session that evening, and it was roundly approved.
Twenty-four banners were hung in the spring on light poles in downtown Wauseon and in other areas of the city. Costing approximately $200 each, the 2.5-foot by 4-foot vinyl signs will be placed each April, then removed each October to protect them from the harsher winter weather.
The city’s military veterans were encouraged through the VFW and American Legion to lend their images to the signs, which Eberly and the Poseys hope to expand to such city streets as Oak, Elm, and Linfoot. Besides the 22 additional banners now being prepared, another 20 to 30 banners are anticipated for display next year, for a total of 70 to 80 banners. All will be funded by donations.
The project extends to any veteran who lives in Wauseon or is a previous citizen. “As long as they were part of this community, or lived here at one point of their life, they could get a banner,” Eberly said. “The veterans really love it. The families like to see their family members honored.”
As director of the American Legion Riders, motorcyclists who hold riding events to raise money for veterans, Chad Posey also witnessed Ohio towns using banners to honor their military members. “I thought it was amazing,” he said. “It was very inspiring. I was very proud of our country.”
That experience and added inspiration from his father, Ron, a Vietnam veteran, and his three children – one of whom is a veteran, the other two still serving their country – led Posey and his wife to pursue the same goal in Wauseon.
“Now it’s kind of been a big hit,” he said. “If it wasn’t for (military members) we wouldn’t be here. We just want to show that we’re pretty proud of our veterans.”
A banner displaying Rich Volkman, an Army veteran of the 101st Airborne between 1985-87, has been placed at Fulton and Oak streets, a short distance from his home. His brother, Army veteran Rick Volkman, is featured on the opposite side.
“It’s kind of nice having my picture right on the street I live on,” he said.
A member of the American Legion riders, Volkman saw similar banners displayed in West Unity. ”It’s nice to see people recognized from the past and present because we’ve got a lot of people up there that put in 20, 30 years. It’s just nice to be recognized as a whole,” he said.
Eberly said he and the Poseys agree that a simple thank-you to veterans and active military personnel isn’t enough. He said the banners represent a lasting tribute.
“It also shows the younger generation in school that might want to go to the military that our community supports and respects our vets. They will always be thought of and remembered,” he said.
A Facebook page, “Wauseon Military Tribute Banners,” offers directions on how to order a banner for a military member and how to donate to the project.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.