The faces of veterans are lining Woodville’s streets

J. Patrick Eaken

If you see people with tears in their eyes driving through Woodville, there is a reason for that.
Look up, and you’ll see banners with the faces of military veterans and active duty military lining Main Street. It could be their family members.
There are 102 of them, and for family members from Woodville and Woodville Township, it is good to see their loved ones recognized.
“There are a lot of people on Facebook who said it brought tears to their eyes to see somebody who probably passed on. We have World War I to current (active duty). It’s an awesome sight to see,” said Mayor Rich Harman.
“These banners are going to fly through November then they will come down. People who want to keep them, they are theirs — for a small fee they can keep them. They are good for about three years in the environment — they are vinyl. They are pretty cool.”
        The banners are about 18 by 36 inches and the cost is about $60 each. About 60 poles that were used to hold other banners were already in place along Main Street, the mayor added.
There are eight active duty banners at the four corners of the downtown Walnut and Main Street intersection.  The veterans are spread out along Main Street. Some banners had to be hung in the school circle drive. 

Beth Wolford, whose son Ross Wolford is an MA3 (master-at-arms) in the U.S. Navy stationed in Italy, was the lead motivator who got this project moving. She said meeting veterans was one of her favorite parts about the project.
“It’s really cool to see it all the way down Main Street,” Wolford said. “I think the best part about all of it was just spending the two-and-a-half hours talking to a Vietnam vet, looking through pictures, hearing his stories, or the son I got to take his banner of his dad who was in hospice, and they got a picture with him in the banner and then he died two days later.
“Or, the text you get from the mom who said, ‘I drove through town crying when I found my son’s banner.’ It is so cool. That’s the kind of thing that makes this the best — those stories,” Wolford continued.
Wolford said the idea came to her from something she saw on social media.
 “I saw on Facebook a small town in southern Ohio had done it, and I just feel enriched about it, so I just called the mayor and I said, ‘Can we make this happen?’ He said, ‘Put a committee together and make it happen.’ I got a good committee together and we put it together pretty quick and made it happen,” Wolford said.
“We made up some fliers, we did a Facebook page, we did the order forms and we put them in all of the utility bills for all of the Woodville people, put it in the Suburban Press one weekend and put it on Facebook mostly and people could send in $60, and you could send in your dad, your grandpa, your uncle, your daughter, whoever.  There is a company out of Minneapolis and they did the banners.”
Harman added, “We got together and formed a committee of five people and we met several times from winter to the last meeting was probably three weeks ago. This committee worked hard on this thing.”
Committee members are Wolford, Harman, Traci Hernandez, Mike O’Connor, Keith Kruse and Sean Mercer. They made the project public last October.
Beth says she also wants to thank “all the town’s workers behind the scenes that were hanging banners at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning.”
“That’s because we wanted it to be Monday morning and everybody would wake up and could see the banners there — we thought that would be really great — just a big thanks to everybody,” Wolford continued. “This kind of stuff is what a hometown is all about. What a positive vibe we have buzzing around our village and it’s amazing.”
A U.S. Army veteran, Harman’s “mug is hanging up there, too” says Wolford.
Harman says the banners are not entirely unique, but Woodville wanted to put its own twist on it, and it probably wouldn’t have happened without Wolford.
“The (Woodmore) high school has done the Veteran’s Wall and during Veteran’s Day they have an event for veterans,” Harman said. “Beth was instrumental in getting this started.
“These are all over the country. Bryan, Ohio has them, Oak Harbor has them and so we wanted to be a little different with our graphics. We wanted to be sensitive to Oak Harbor since they are so close, so our background and wording may be different,” Harman continued.
“Now people who weren’t aware of it want to participate, but that will have to be done down the road a little bit.”
Wolford added, "We are discussing options for next year and a letter will be mailed in October to every banner sponsor."


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