Street banners pay tribute to residents in the military

DOWNEY - Surrounded by nearly 100 community members, the City Council celebrated Veteran's Day on Wednesday by unveiling military banners, honoring 20 Downey residents currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces."Today, the city did what was long overdue," said Mayor Mario Guerra. "We honored the men and women who pay the ultimate sacrifice and give us our freedoms." The 20 military banners, which line Firestone Boulevard, from Brookshire to Paramount, were proposed by Councilman Roger Brossmer who introduced the banner program after seeing several military banners hanging in a neighboring city. "I was driving in the city of La Habra and saw their banners - I thought, "Why aren't we doing that?," Brossmer said. "I asked someone if it was too late to do this - but they told me it's never too late to do the right thing." Held in the courtyard outside of the Downey Theatre, the ceremony grew sober when several family members shared touching stories about their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, who are serving abroad. Joe and Faye Wassenaar's son, Matthew, is currently serving on a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, but before he left, Faye remembers the day Matthew rode around Downey on his bicycle. "He rode around the whole city, he wanted to see the new park - he's a product of Downey," said Faye. "These banners will help us remember our veterans - it also inspires young people to join." Matthew Wassenaar graduated from Downey High School in 2007. All three of Sharon Slovyan's sons are serving in the Armed Forces, one in the Navy, one in the Army and one in the Marines. "I never dreamed all three would go," said Slovyan with tears in her eyes. "I thank the city for doing this program - we just need to keep praying." Several were drawn to tears during the ceremony after Guerra recognized Crystal Vincent, the mother of late Lance Cpl. Joshua Whittle, who died earlier this year while serving in Afghanistan. "He's an example of one willing to pay that ultimate sacrifice for this great country," said Guerra. During the ceremony, Brossmer announced the creation of a new foundation, which will begin raising funds for a permanent memorial in honor of all the soldiers from Downey who have fallen in battle. "We've already looked at some examples and taken some field trips to see other memorials," said Brossmer. "We want to start the fundraising - we don't want money to be an obstacle." Guerra called the memorial a "high priority that will be pushed through the Council." Brossmer hopes that as residents see the banners, they will both donate money and submit more names of Downey servicemen and women. "We want to add 20 more banners to Firestone," said Brossmer. "We just want to honor all those who need to be honored."

********** Published: November 13, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 30

FeaturesEric Pierce