On a recent trip to Pennsylvania, North Babylon resident Jeanine Walther noticed a row of banners hanging on a main street, emblazoned with the faces and names of locals in the military and was inspired to emulate it in her hometown.
“When I looked at it I got such a sense of pride and [thought to myself that] we need something like that,” the military mom said.
She connected with another mother with a son in the armed forces, and together she and Carolyn Mormino, also of North Babylon, started a movement to hang “hometown heroes” banners in Babylon. They recently received support from town Supervisor Rich Schaffer.
“They came up with a great idea, so we’re figuring out how to do it,” Schaffer said. He supports “any time we can bring more awareness to the people who are serving our country, especially in this day and age.”.
Mormino and Walther are still fine-tuning details. They may fundraise and are considering trying a pilot program outside Town Hall first before expanding to other parts of the town. They've created a Facebook group, TOB Hometown Hero Campaign, to spread the idea and get others interested.
“The feedback was amazing,” Mormino said.
They’re hoping the banners will inspire others as it has inspired them.
“When you see that going down the block, you can’t help but get emotional,” Mormino said.
Both women have 19-year-old sons in the Navy who enlisted before graduating high school. Walther and Mormino each come from military families and have fathers, brothers and other relatives who served.
While they said they have mixed feelings of loss and pride, they said their love for their country and the military is stronger.
“I’m so proud, incredibly proud,” Walther said of her son, Travis. “Worried at times.”
The women, who met recently through a mutual friend, bonded over their shared experience as Navy moms, missing their sons and taking any chance they have to spend time with their children.
“We celebrate holidays when we can,” Mormino said. “Sometimes it’s Christmas in July.”
The women have yet to iron out the banner details, but they’re hoping military families will purchase the banners for their active service and veteran relatives.
“What a beautiful way to honor a memory,” Walther said.
Schaffer said he often encourages young people to go into the military and sees the banners as supportive of that.
Walther had the same thought.
“Just imagine the kids walking down the street and seeing this, and they don’t know where they’re going to go, what they want to do,” she said.
- The Army is the largest branch of the U.S. military, accounting for 36% of all active-duty service members, based on 2015 figures.
- The military has grown older in the past 40 years. The average enlisted member was 25 in 1973 and 27 in 2015. The average military officer was 32 in 1973 and 35 in 2015.
- There are more Gulf War-era veterans than veterans from any other conflict, eclipsing Vietnam-era veterans in 2016. There were 7.1 million American veterans who served in the Gulf War era, and 6.8 million who served during the Vietnam era.
- A smaller percentage of the U.S. population is serving in the military than in the past. In 2016, 7% of adults were veterans, down from 18% in 1980.
- Source: Pew Research Center