Ceremony honors hometown heroes
TOWANDA - U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ted D. Cobb of Wyalusing died at age 19 at Iwo Jima during World War II, two days before the historic flag raising on the island.
Cobb was one of 204 veterans and members of the U.S. military who were each honored with a banner that was hung from the lampposts in Towanda in May 2009.
The hanging of the banners was the beginning of the Hometown Heroes Banner Project, which has been sponsored by the Bradford County Veterans Affairs Office and Towanda Borough.
After two years, the 204 banners were taken down and replaced with a second group of 193 banners honoring local veterans, which also hung for two years from the lampposts.
Over the past three weeks, the second round of banners was taken down and replaced with a new group of 206 banners, which also honor Bradford County veterans and service members.
Among those honored in the third round is Army specialist Ryan P. Jayne of Troy, who was deployed to Afghanistan and who lost his life on Nov. 3, 2012 when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in the Paktia province, said Wyalusing resident Jason Nowland, who had served as a sergeant in the Army.
"These brave men and women that line our streets (in Towanda) know that liberty and freedom come with a price, and they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice," said Nowland, who was one of the speakers at a dedication ceremony for the third round of banners, which was held Saturday American Legion Post 42 in Towanda.
In his speech at the ceremony, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko talked about his uncle Pete McLinko, who was drafted to serve in the Korean War, and who never came home.
"The Army says he was taken prisoner by the Chinese in 1951 and died soon after," Doug McLinko said. "Like most POWs, he went through hell and lies somewhere in North Korea. He was killed by the North Koreans and the Communist Chinese."
"His memory will live on in his hometown as long as these banners fly with the names of (those) killed in action or prisoners of war," Doug McLinko said.
The banners show those who have worked "to keep us safe," and all of the people on the banners are "American hometown heroes," the commissioner said.
Kelly Bradley of the Wyalusing, who spearheaded the Hometown Heroes project, said she was motivated to work on the project because she had lost a childhood friend at age 20 in the Vietnam War and because, as an educator in the Wyalusing School District, she had seen over 35 years the courage displayed by seniors who began serving in the military right after graduating from high school.
"They were sent to hot spots all around the world," Bradley said.
Guest speaker Chris McLaud, who is a captain in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard said: "Every man and woman who wears America's uniform is part of a long, unbroken line of achievement and honor. No single military power in history has done greater good, shown greater courage, liberated more people, or upheld higher standards of decency and valor than the armed forces of the United States of America."
The fact that U.S. armed forces are "so remarkably well trained" is what makes America's military so great, he said.
State Sen. Gene Yaw said the banners of veterans displayed in Towanda "is really pretty special." Veterans are a minority of the population who have preserved Americans' freedoms, including the right to assemble and vote, he said.
State Rep. Tina Pickett encouraged the public to take a walk through Towanda and read the banners, saying it would be a great experience for them.
"Sometimes we need to only see a face, read a name or find out where a hero is from to truly value their contribution to our free society," she said.
Other speakers at the ceremony included Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller and Towanda Mayor Garrett Miller.
The third round of banners has a red, white and blue design, which is different from the banners used in the first two rounds, Bradley said in an interview.
Each banner has the name and photo of the veteran, the conflict or war he or served in, branch of service, and hometown. The banners also indicate if a veteran was a prisoner of war or was killed in action.
The third round of banners will also hang for two years, Bradley has said.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.