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Banners on village's main thoroughfare to honor 'Hometown Heroes'

Members of the Lindenhurst Kiwanis club stand by

Members of the Lindenhurst Kiwanis club stand by one of the "Hometown Heroes" banners on Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst on Thursday. They are, from left, JoAnn Boettcher, Tom Baumann, chairman Ralph Somma and Alice Cromarty. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The honor and dedication of military service members will soon be on display along the main thoroughfare in Lindenhurst Village. 

The new Lindenhurst Kiwanis Club's Hometown Heroes program allows people to purchase banners bearing a loved one’s official military photo, name, branch, rank and years of service. The banners, which measure 18-by-36 inches, are double-sided and made of heavy-duty vinyl and will be hung from lampposts along Wellwood Avenue, from Memorial Day to Veterans Day for two years. The program is open to residents and nonresidents, including those now serving active duty.

The club took on the project after past president Ralph Somma heard about Hometown Heroes from the upstate Elmira city club. Then while driving through upstate Ticonderoga, he saw that town's banners.

“It was really just such a wonderful, inspiring sight to see when you were driving through the downtown,” he said.

The club launched its effort in January after getting permission from the village, and has applications for 128 service members. The banners cost $200, with a portion of the money going to one of three veterans organizations of the applicant’s choosing.

Two North Babylon military moms are working with the club and Babylon Town to establish a townwide program. Somma says they believe the only other Hometown Heroes program on Long Island is in Lynbrook village, which has had banners up since 2018 after Mayor Alan Beach said he saw them on a trip to upstate Troy.

Tom Baumann, who served in the Marine Corps from 1993 to 1997, is printing the banners at cost at his Lindenhurst print shop and donating his time. He said it had been time consuming in part because it was difficult to get quality photos. Many photos are damaged, he said, and others were lost in superstorm Sandy. He helped one man get a photo from an old VHS tape.

“It’s been a lot of work but I feel really good about doing it because, being a veteran myself, I know how much this means to somebody who served,” he said.

Lindenhurst’s John Reynolds bought three banners, including one for himself for his service in the Army from 1968 to 1970. The others honor his father and father-in-law who were World War II Army veterans.

Reynolds said he appreciated the recognition the banners provide, particularly as someone who saw military members being shunned or even harassed after returning from the Vietnam War.

“When I came home from active duty during the Vietnam War, there was no welcome home,” he said. “You didn’t feel you were being recognized for your service.”

The first banner has been hoisted near Village Hall. It honors former State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cromarty, who was a decorated bombardier in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

“I’m just so very, very proud,” said his daughter Alice Cromarty. “It’s just wonderful to honor these people who gave so much of themselves and had so much devotion to our country.”

Those interested in getting a banner can go to https://www.lindenhurstkiwanis.org/hometownheroes.

Veteran Statistics

Veterans in the U.S.: 18,939,219

Veterans in New York: 757,900

Veterans in Nassau County: 48,283

Veterans in Suffolk County: 67,089

Nassau County veterans by conflict:

World War II 6,099

Korean War 8,202

Vietnam era 16,473

Gulf War (8/1990 to 8/2001) 3,335

Gulf War (9/2001 or later) 3,711

Suffolk County veterans by conflict:

World War II 5,061

Korean War 9,456

Vietnam era 25,186

Gulf War (8/1990 to 8/2001) 6,631

Gulf War (9/2001 or later) 5,293

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

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