I grew up in Torrance, California, which is the heart of the South Bay suburb of Los Angeles. Torrance was/is also the hub for aircraft/aerospace companies like Northrop, Douglas, and Hughes, with many military contracts with the government. Our airport is named after former Torrance High graduate (the school I attended, and was the high school used in the television series, Beverly Hills 90210) Louis Zamperini, who was a legendary 1936 Olympian (you know, the one in Berlin) and World War II hero. You may have seen the movies about his life, Unbroken & Unbroken 2. 

Although the population is quite large, Torrance has a big, small-town heart for our military. With every chance the city had, we honored all of our local veterans with celebrations, saluting those currently serving, and we’d lined up the parade routes waving our American flags. 

So when I moved to Wenatchee last year, it felt like home (minus the beach, of course) when I saw American flags being put up along Wenatchee Avenue in downtown for Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veteran’s Day. 

And just like my hometown Torrance, Wenatchee also has special Hero Banners that honor some of the local service men and women of the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines. 

Linda Hagelin of the Wenatchee Downtown Association said that she started the project 5 years ago, after seeing the same idea in another small town community in Kansas. In the beginning, it was just 21 banners, which included a banner to honor her own father. Today, there are 100 banners, which about 30 of them can be found hanging in East Wenatchee. 

So who are some of the Veterans featured hanging above us as we stroll down the Avenue? Hagelin says that every year they have local families or individuals who want to honor a love one who served in the military, and pay about $125 for a hero banner that can be hung for two years every November. Much of the money goes to the Vets Hall as well as the Bunker, both here in Wenatchee. Both doing great things for our local Veterans.

Now you may have noticed this year, the hero banners went up back in October. Well, there was reason for that. Linda Hagelin said her team at the Wenatchee Downtown Association wanted them displayed in time for the Washington Main Street conference called, Revitalize Washington that came to town, hoping to encourage other communities to do the same.

So next time you’re in historic downtown Wenatchee (or in East Wenatchee), doing some shopping or grabbing something for lunch, look up. Take notice of the names. What branch. Years of service. Think about them and their families. And then think about your own loved ones who served, and thank them for their service in whatever capacity they served. Whether they were on the front lines, on guard, or in the kitchens. God bless them all. Amen.

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