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By Christen M. Stroh

If you drive through downtown Donora, you may notice that the streets are lined with more displays of patriotism than they have in the past. You may even notice some familiar faces.

Troop Banner 1
Those interested in the Military Banner Program can sponsor a banner to be hung in downtown Donora from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The banner includes the photo of the military member and a tribute.

 

Donora has become the latest community to implement the Military Banner Program, which has been taking the South Hills and surrounding communities by storm. The program honors veterans and military members currently serving by displaying the picture of each soldier sponsored and a tribute of when the individual served, and in what capacity, on a banner.

The Military Banner Program originated in Castle Shannon, where Harry and Tammy Munson came up with the idea to honor their son. Other communities began to get on board, including Whitehall, South Park, Scott Twp., Carnegie, Bethel Park, and Bridgeville. In fact, 17 miles of Route 88 have banners honoring veterans in the various communities that have adopted the program.

Donora native and businessman Gene Svrcek liked the program so much that he reached out to Donora Mayor John Lignelli and American Legion Post 212 commander Terry Gnora to determine the feasibility of bringing the program to Donora. After the borough and the American Legion were committed to making this a community project, Svrcek partnered with the Munsons and their design firm, HTM Designs, to design and create the banners.

Next, a website was launched - www.troopbanners.com/Donora. The site is updated with the banners that have been ordered and also contains the downloadable application, available to anyone who would like to sponsor a banner.

For $90, a sponsor can purchase a banner to honor any military member – past or present – and have that banner on display along McKean Ave., Donora's main street, from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. The banners are double-faced and bracketed. The photo used is scanned on-site and returned to the sponsor immediately to ensure that no damage occurs, and then the proof of the banner is shown to the sponsor for approval before the banner itself is made. It then takes 2 – 3 weeks for the completed banner to arrive in Donora.

The Military Banner Program became available in Donora after Memorial Day, with the first banners being hung downtown in time for the 4th of July. The program continues to gain momentum, and, Svrcek noted, "The response has been truly overwhelming." At the end of July, there were nearly 200 banners that had been ordered.

Svrcek remarked that it's not just Donora residents who are opting to sponsor banners, either. He said, "The program is causing family members to reconnect not only in the Valley, but also across certain parts of the country where people have moved. By accessing the website, they can see the tribute and the banner. We're getting a lot of calls from people across the country sponsoring banners."

The program is so popular that Monongahela has expressed interest in getting on board, as well. Svrcek indicated that he hopes this eventually becomes a Valley-wide tribute, with many more communities adopting the program.

While Svrcek and his business, Colgan Insurance Agency, are the points of contact, he is quick to indicate that this not a project he could have undertaken alone. "Really, I want to give credit to everyone who's involved," noted Svrcek. "The banners are hung and will be taken down and stored by the borough, and the American Legion constructs the brackets. My office staff is responsible for scanning the photos, handling the applications, and working with the design company. It truly is a group effort and it wouldn't have come together without the help of all those involved."

Those interested in sponsoring a banner can contact the Colgan Insurance Agency at 724-379-5300 or can download an application at www.troopbanners.com/Donora.

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