The City of DeLand is launching a new program to publicly honor the city’s veterans and active-duty members of the military, including those who have died in the course of duty.
Dubbed the Hometown Heroes Military Banner program, the new initiative will see 34 local veterans’ names, faces, years of service and military branches displayed on banners attached to the streetlight poles in Downtown DeLand each July.
The city plans to run the program for at least three years, thanks to sponsorship funding from Florida Hospital DeLand and Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, allowing the city to honor more than 100 veterans.
The program is open to DeLand residents, or veterans who are immediate relatives of DeLand residents.
Hometown Heroes is the brainchild of Chris Graham, the city’s community information specialist, who got the idea from taking a trip with his fiancee to her hometown, near Pittsburgh, which had a similar program.
“I’ve always been kind of drawn to paying tribute to veterans. I’m not a veteran myself, but it’s just something I like to do,” Graham said.
The banners will be shown during July not only because the month coincides with Independence Day, but because there are few Downtown events competing for banner space.
“I wish I could do it during Veterans Day, but it’s event season … so, it’s just tough to get space,” Graham said.
The program is limited to 34 veterans each year because the city only has 17 banner spaces along Woodland Boulevard in Downtown DeLand. Each banner will be double-sided, displaying two veterans.
The veterans’ information will also be listed on the city’s website.
Veterans or families of the veterans participating will also receive a smaller replica banner to display at home courtesy of Trophy Factory. Express Printing will be producing the banners.
For those interested in applying, applications are available on the third floor of DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
The application is also available to download or print at home at www.deland.org/resources/hometown-heroes-military-banner-program/.
Applications along with necessary documentation may be emailed to Coco Montanez at email@example.com.
Documents that will be needed before an application is accepted include proof of DeLand residency, verification of active or past military service, as well as honorable discharge (DD-214 form), and a large, high-quality photograph of the service person in uniform.
Applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis, Graham said.
DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar said the program was a manifestation of the city’s patriotism, and praised it as an employee-launched initiative.
“I think it’s important that the community understand that our employees are also trying to use their own initiative and come up with their own ideas to help the community,” he said.