Editor's note: This story was corrected at 2 p.m. on June 13, 2018. A previous version incorrectly stated the number of banners included in the Hometown Heroes program in 2015.
SCHENECTADY — Fifty veterans from Schenectady County were honored Tuesday in the Schenectady Armory, as banners slated to be hung on lampposts on State Street and around Schenectady City Hall were unveiled.
Led by the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. and the city of Schenectady, the banners, which are 6 feet tall, bear the official military photos of area veterans. They will be displayed Tuesday through Veterans Day.
The program was started in 2015, according to Ray Legere of Legere Properties. He has four family members featured on banners this year himself.
In its initial year, the Schenectady Improvement Corp. printed 43 banners. After printing 50 this year, Legere wants to double that number of veterans honored next year.
"It’s truly humbling,” Legere said of having his family members honored.
At one point, Legere had five uncles serving in World War II simultaneously.
For Sgt. 1st Class Temu Gibson, seeing the banners around the city serves as an important reminder of the sacrifices veterans and their families make for society.
“It’s a tough time that we’re going through right now [as veterans],” said Gibson, in full uniform Tuesday as the banners were revealed. “I think we deserve more recognition than we get.”
50 banners are being unveiled honoring Schenectady’s veterans. They will be featured on State Street and around City Hall through Veteran’s Day. pic.twitter.com/UsK0E9mA5V— Jake Lahut (@JakeLahut) June 12, 2018
Gibson, who is featured on one of the banners this year, served in Operation Desert Storm in the Navy and in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in the Army.
“I would do it all over again, but the best part is having the support of my family,” he said after posing for photos with loved ones in front of his banner.
For some attendees seeing the posters of deceased loved ones for the first time elicited strong emotions.
Sheree Komp, a Niskayuna teacher who is set to retire at the end of the school year, got to see her father honored at Tuesday's ceremony.
"It’s a bit overwhelming actually, just seeing his picture up there, and it’s so big and it’s so well done, and that he’s going to be a part of the community like this is really such an honor,” Komp said. “He never talked about the war. He received a purple heart, actually, and we’re still not really sure how that happened because he would only make up funny stories about it.”
Former National Guardsman and head of the Rotterdam AMVETS Chapter Frederick Clark was all smiles when he saw his banner. While he agreed with Gibson that Americans had a tendency to compartmentalize the burden of war after Vietnam, he insisted any acknowledgement of his service is always welcome.
"I find it reassuring when other people thank us for our service because it’s an outpouring of warmth and realizing that being in the service isn’t always easy,” Clark said. “They only had to give us four hours of sleep. I don’t think everybody realizes that.”
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, also a veteran of the National Guard, spoke about the need to keep current service members in mind, as the city and county honor their veterans.
“Each banner should remind us that there are still thousands of service members out there away from their families so that we can be with ours.”
Correction: A previous version of this article published on page C1 on Wednesday misstated the number of banners printed in 2015. The correct number is 43.