EVANS CITY — When he began working on a project in the autumn of 2014 to hang military banners on the borough’s utility poles, Mayor Dean Zinkhann had no idea he was planting a seed that continues to sprout today in and around Butler County.
Zinkhann started his mission to honor veterans with the 2-foot by 3-foot banners by having one created for Army Staff Sgt. Eric Holman, 39, of Evans City, who was killed in August 2012 in Afghanistan.
Those who spend the $80 to have an active military or veteran friend or loved one, living or deceased, placed on a banner to be displayed in the borough also receive two smaller banners for their personal use.
Zinkhann invited Wayne Perry, who is now the junior vice-commander for the Pennsylvania State VFW, to the December 2014 borough council meeting to present David and Jan Holman with the smaller banners that pictured Sgt. Holman.
The entire council and all those attending that meeting immediately rose and applauded as the stricken Holmans accepted the banners.
The military banner program then took flight in Evans City. Today, 260 banners hang on Main Street and eight other streets in the small borough.
Zinkhann tries to accommodate families who want a banner hung near the veteran’s home, place of business or other significant area in the borough.
“But everyone wants the same pole sometimes,” Zinkhann said.
In addition to gluing the elbows and tees of PVC pipe together to attach to the brackets that hang the banners on the light poles, Zinkhann and two other borough residents put the banners up on Memorial Day and take them down on Veterans Day.
The $80 paid for each banner is used up in printing the banners and buying the equipment to hang them, Zinkhann said. He said sometimes Home Depot donates the PVC pipe and brackets, so he has a little money left over.
Zinkhann is considering using the money to buy solar lights to enhance the Evans City banners.
Zinkhann also travels to neighboring communities to demonstrate the banners for municipal leaders considering the program.
After Zinkhann began the program in Evans City, Butler and Chicora in Butler County and Rimersburg in nearby Clarion County instituted military banner programs.
Callery officials also are considering the program for their small borough.
Zinkhann said he recently visited Chippewa Township in Beaver County, and officials there have decided to move forward with the military banners.
The mayor also has an appointment on Saturday to demonstrate the banners for officials in Beaver Falls.
“It’s just amazing, really,” Zinkhann said of the program’s popularity. “I just set a goal to honor our vets.”
John Cyprian, the director of Butler County Veterans Services, said he appreciates the military banner program and hopes it expands to other municipalities.
“I commend Dean for taking that initiative on,” Cyprian said. “What better way to pay tribute to our veterans?”
Cyprian said he occasionally sees a few banners here and there when he travels, but nothing compared to the local banner programs.
“Butler County has got to be one of the most, if not the most, patriotic community in the Commonwealth,” Cyprian said. “Our people support vets.”
When Butler City Council adopted the program, Cyprian said his mother ran out and bought a banner for all four of her boys.
“It’s very humbling,” Cyprian said. “She’s proud of her boys.”
Asked why he took on the project four years ago, Zinkhann points to the sacrifices made by U.S. military personnel every day.
“We wouldn’t be standing here if not for our vets,” he said. “That’s why I love it.”