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Erwin to display ‘Hometown Heroes’ banners

Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley holds one of the Hometown Heroes banners that will be on display in downtown Erwin for Memorial Day until July 4. This one recognizes former Unicoi County Commissioner Dwight Bennett. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

As summer draws near bringing holidays that support those brave souls that fought for our freedoms, the Town of Erwin prepares to honor soldiers by hanging banners bearing their pictures and branches of service on it through town.

According to Town of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice, this will be the first year for the banners project, which is called “Hometown Heroes,” to be displayed.

“This is the first year and I believe it is the first of its kind for Erwin, and maybe for our entire area,” Rice said. “We are hoping to reuse the banners for two years and then retire them, with opportunities for new soldiers to be displayed.”

For Rice, the idea to start the Hometown Heroes Project came from a trip to Pennsylvania.

“I saw this program when I visited Pittsburgh a few years ago and it has been on my to-do list ever since,” Rice said.

According to Rice, many people in the area have reached out to show support for veterans who too often paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“There are soldiers from every branch and era,” Rice said. “The project was a little overwhelming at times – learning the fate of these men, some of whom were killed in action or POWs. The family members would call me and tell me their stories. Decades had gone by, and it was still too painful for them to talk about. Being a mother myself, seeing these innocent faces in uniform, just breaks my heart.”

Rice hopes that the Hometown Heroes project inspires those who take the time to read the banners and reflect on those brave men and women.

“I hope that when people drive down Main Street and see these photographs it will be a daily reminder that freedom is not free and there are families grieving for their loved ones who never came home,” Rice said.

According to Rice, the banners will be on display soon.

“The Town of Erwin will be hanging up the Hometown Heroes banners on Friday, May 22,” Rice said. “I have 36 pictures of veterans. My plan is to leave them up through July 4. I was hoping this would help get more veterans to come and be in our (annual Fourth of July) parade, but that is in limbo right now.”