Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, in association with the Baldwin Fire Department, is debuting its Veteran Military Banner Program. For it, sponsors pay for veteran photo banners to be placed on light posts along Grand Avenue from Memorial Day, May 31, to Veterans Day on Nov. 11, at which point they will be taken down.
The co-president of the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, Erik Mahler said, “We have a ridiculously amazing Memorial Day parade, and what better place to honor a veteran than to sponsor a banner.”
Christopher Carini, the Town of Hempstead’s 5th District councilman, echoed this sentiment, saying, “This was a great program by the chamber, and we were happy to assist them thanking our veterans for their service to our country.”
The chamber began accepting sponsorships for four months, and as of press time Monday, 39 banners had been created, with seven more in production, surpassing the chamber’s original expectation of 15 banners.
Currently, 10 banners decorate Grand Avenue, from Prospect Street to Merrick Road, saluting Malachy McGarry, Michael David Ronan, Rebecca Alvarez, Thomas E. Fitzpatrick Jr., Joseph R. Eberhart and John M. Candido, of the U.S. Navy; Thomas J. Turner and James P. Bugler, of the Army; William Agudelo, of the Marine Corps; and Charles Jameson, of the Air Force.
To sponsor a veteran, whether it be family member or not, an individual or organization can send payment to the chamber. The sponsor will be directed to the chamber’s website to upload a photo of the veteran, along with a name and other information. The chamber provides the sponsor with the banner to approve.
The program is not limited to Baldwin residents, Mahler said, but rather “it’s for anyone who wants to show respect and honor for individuals who have fought for our country to give us our rights.”
Mahler noted that even though 2021 was the program’s first year in Baldwin, other communities have done it for about a decade. “A small town in upstate New York, in the Cairo area, every year would put these military banners that would look gorgeous,” he said, “and I always thought the Baldwin community should that.” He was hoping that programs like this would ignite a sense of patriotism by centering those who “have given themselves for our country, especially our freedoms of speech and religion.”
Following the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the civil unrest after the death of George Floyd last May, a 2020 Gallup poll found that national pride among Americans was at its lowest point this century. An American Psychological Association poll also found that the “future of the nation” was a significant stressor for 83 percent of Americans, and a 2020 Politico survey prompted 75 percent of Americans to say things had “pretty seriously” gone off the wrong track.