Banners featuring Eureka men and women currently serving in the military are seen hung on light poles above the Eureka Boardwalk on Tuesday. (Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The first banners went up on Veteran’s Day 2015, and since then, more than 50 banners have been hung along the boardwalk in Eureka to honor local military service members. Today, organizers are looking to give the program a boost.

“We are reaching out to any families who have a family member serving and it doesn’t cost them anything; the lodge bears all the cost,” said John Prince, who now coordinates the banner project for the Masonic Lodge. “All they need to do is get us a photo and we will design the banner. We are also asking for the public’s input for the banner designs.”

If you take a stroll along the boardwalk and glance up you’ll see banners featuring a picture of Eureka enlistees, and the banners remain flying during their entire tour. When they are discharged, the banner is turned over to the former service member and their family.

“Currently there are 45 banners up and we have created 52 with 53 underway,” Prince said. “The Masonic Lodge pays for all the costs and the city (Don Wilkes, harbor operations supervisor) puts them up. I am one of the original designers and now I want to change things up a little bit. So I am reaching out to the community to see what the current status is for the service members we have honored and for those we featured before. We don’t have contact information for some of those people so they can reach out to us by email or mail.”

Prince and the military banner project can be reached by emailing eurekaboardwalkhonors@gmail.com. The Lodge can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 197, Eureka, CA 95502.

Prince mentioned Dale Maples as one of the people who lit a fire under the project when it first began to take form in 2015 and for Maples, whose son just finished a stint with the United States Marine Corps, it was a way for a community to honor those who volunteer to serve.

Maples, who does the PA for Eureka High School football games, said the idea to find a way to honor local young men and women came to him when he watched a moment of silence for a Eureka High graduate who had lost his life in 2015. It was that moment that spurred an itch to find a way to honor those who enlist in the Armed Forces.

“I realized that as an announcer and a Eureka resident I didn’t know this young man,” Maples said on Tuesday. “There wasn’t a lot of awareness about those who joined and I thought it would be an idea to know their faces. I saw Fortuna had done it already — this wasn’t an original idea, you have to give credit to Fortuna for that. I went to the City Council and asked them to consider and Miles Slattery helped me build a narrative I could take to the council.”

Maples said when he reached out to the folks in Fortuna who coordinated their banner program he was told to contact the Masonic Lodge and the partnership between the Lodge and the city has kept the program up and running.

For Wilkes, who learned very quickly not to try and put the banners up on a windy day, the banners are part of his daily work routine and he’s proud to add his energy to the effort.

“I check on the banners daily, make sure the hardware is good and the banners are in good shape,” Wilkes said Tuesday. “If they have done their tour we return them to the Mason lodge to be returned to the family. Thankfully, I have never had to take one down because of a death, I’ve only had to take them down for the completion of service. As they enter service I put them up so the public can see who they are and so we can honor these young men and women, these brave young people.”

The current goal, according to Prince, is to update who is being honored on the banner and to reach out to any Eureka families that may have someone in the service who hasn’t been honored with a banner. Prince also said they are working on new original designs and public input is more than welcome.

“We will go through a design phase for each banner and we are reaching out for any new people who have enlisted,” Prince said. “All a family needs to do is get us a photo and if they can’t download it they can come by the lodge and we’ll scan it.”

Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528. 

blog comments powered by Disqus