Pat Reitz was visiting family near Philadelphia when she stumbled upon a street lined by banners featuring men and women in uniform.
The wife of a veteran, Reitz described the sight of this town’s celebration of its residents who served in the U.S. military as patriotic and emotional. She liked the Pennsylvania town’s idea so much that she’s organizing a similar program in her new home: Collinsville.
“It’s moving when you go down the street and all the banners are up and you think of all the people who have given their lives, or at least their time — my husband was in the Marine Corps for 20 years — I just think they need to be honored and respected for that,” she said.
Reitz said she approached Collinsville Mayor John Miller, who served in the U.S. Air Force, about hanging similar banners downtown and things took off from there.
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“He liked the idea immediately,” Reitz said.
Miller served during the Vietnam War. “As a veteran,” he said, “I like to see all veterans honored.”
The city has helped design the banners and a brochure promoting what is being called the “Hometown Heroes” program, but Reitz said it won’t cost Collinsville anything to produce the banners themselves.
Reitz is charging $100 for each banner, which she said is close to the cost of printing, and anything that is left over will be donated toward a military scholarship at one of the local American Legion posts.
Miller is hopeful residents will embrace the program.
“...Let’s kick this thing off right so we can have banners lining both sides of Main Street,” he said.
The exact date of a banner hanging ceremony has not been set, but Reitz said it will take place in September. The first 145 orders will be made and hung along Main Street and onto connecting Vandalia Street near downtown Collinsville.
Families can submit information about their vets — who are currently serving or have served as long ago as 1861— by contacting Reitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-346-7890.
It’s moving when you go down the street and all the banners are up and you think of all the people who have given their lives, or at least their time ...
Pat Reitz, organizer of the Collinsville Hometown Heroes banner program
Banners will be 22-inches wide and 36-inches long and will include the name, rank, branch, photo, era of service and years of service of each veteran. They will be displayed for three months, including Veterans Day, over a few years before being taken down for good. Then, Reitz says she wants to offer the banners back to the families if they want them.
She has also reached out to nearby communities, including Caseyville and Maryville, about establishing similar programs for their local veterans, too.
“I’m willing to present it to any cities that are interested in it,” Reitz said.
Reitz has taken advantage of the program herself, making a banner that will hang in Collinsville for her husband, GySgt. Leonard Reitz, who served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf from 1974 to 1994.
- What: Collinsville’s new program honoring local veterans with banners on light poles lining Main Street and Vandalia Street.
- Cost: Each banner is $100.
- When: Banners will be hung in September.
- More information: Contact Pat Reitz at email@example.com or 618-346-7890.
The following are the eras of service eligible for veterans to be featured in the Hometown Heroes banner program.
- Global War on Terror: Sept. 22, 2001-present
- Persian Gulf War: Aug. 2, 1990-Aug. 31, 1991
- Cold War: Sept. 2, 1945-Dec. 26, 1991
- Vietnam Conflict: Feb. 28, 1962-Nov. 7, 1975
- Korean War: June 27, 1950-Jan. 31, 1955
- World War II: Dec. 7, 1941-Dec. 31, 1946
- World War I: April 6, 1917-Nov. 11, 1918
- Spanish American War: April 1898-August 1898
- American Civil War: 1861-1865