It’s a safe bet you’ll see the face of a veteran fluttering in the breeze this November.
In recognition of local servicemen and women who have served or are serving our nation, a Rapid City supporter is organizing the Veteran’s Honor Banner Project with the sole goal of putting dozens of colorful banners featuring veterans throughout town.
“I was on the honor committee taking vets to Washington, D.C., for several years,” said organizer Bill Casper. “When that was disbanded, I thought nobody is doing this for our guys and gals. They seemed forgotten. I said this is something I can do.”
Casper, who served in the U.S. Air Force as a radar technician from 1959 to 1963 and taught school for 41 years, primarily in Rapid City, doesn’t claim credit for the concept of the Veteran’s Honor Banner Project.
“It’s not my original idea,” he said. “A friend started it in Emporia, Kan., and told me about it. It’s a big deal down there, and they do a barbecue and program, and they have hundreds of banners flying there.”
Casper said his goal with the project is to place as many banners honoring veterans on downtown banner hangers during the month of November leading up to Veteran's Day as possible. After enlisting the support of Main Street Square coordinators, Casper said he’d have banners featuring 18 World War II veterans flying downtown next month.
“These veterans will be honored by having a banner with their picture, service branch, and some facts regarding where they served and what battles they fought in,” he said.
Eventually, Casper said he hoped the project would recognize those who served in other conflicts, including Korea, Vietnam, Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Casper said he had little difficulty finding sponsors for each of this year’s 3-foot-tall by 2-foot-wide red, white and blue banners, which cost $55 each to produce.
For a prototype, Casper relied on 90-year-old Coast Guard veteran Gordon Lease, who took part in amphibious landings at Salerno, Anzio and Normandy. Amazingly, Lease still fit into his WWII uniform, Casper noted.
Casper said he expects to double the number of banners flying in 2018, and he’s already begun exploring potential sites on Sixth Street’s Memorial Walk and along the newly reconstructed Mount Rushmore Road.
“To me, it’s just a matter of recognizing the sacrifices they made and the fact we shouldn’t forget them,” Casper explained. “We ought to keep them in mind. In this day and age, most of us don’t have skin in the game anymore. The more we recognize these veterans, the better it is for us and our nation’s veterans.
“These people need to be honored more than with an occasional service or a perfunctory handshake,” he added. “It’s about recognizing their sacrifices.”