SCHENECTADY — Portraits of members of the U.S. Armed Forces will again line downtown streets this summer.
The Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation (DSIC) and the City of Schenectady partner every year for the Hometown Heroes Banner Program, which displays banners emblazoned with images of local residents who served in the U.S. Armed Forces on downtown utility poles.
“It’s really one of the most rewarding programs we do all year long,” said DSIC Executive Director James Salengo. “We make an emotional connection with families who participate in the program.”
The program honors veterans from the American Revolution to the War in Afghanistan.
Salengo said he’s met some amazing people along the way — including Charlie Merriam, a World War II veteran who was honored at a kick-off ceremony with a ride in a vintage automobile.
“It just makes me feel good about the community,” Salengo said. “Every year, it just gets a lot of great response.”
Two-hundred veterans have been recognized since the program’s inception.
As the effort gains momentum, the number of poles from which to hang the banners has expanded.
Now, for the fifth year, organizers want to double the number of veterans honored over last year from 50 to 100.
Sponsorships are now available for individuals, businesses and organizations.
All active-duty and veteran service members from Schenectady County are eligible.
The Armory Center has hosted the kick-off event for the past several years.
Co-owner Ray Legere said the community response grows with each successive year.
It’s an “elegant, somber and meaningful way” to honor veterans, he said.
“People are coming out of woodwork to share memories of their families and salute those still in service,” said Legere, who added five of his uncles were deployed at the same time during World War II.
“It’s an amazing, emotional thing to see families and the servicemen and women who served get a moment of praise and gratitude.”
The banners are displayed all summer.
The deadline for submitting applications for this year’s program is Friday, March 22.
For more information about the program and sponsorships, visit downtownschenectady.org.