Prairie Township hopes to make Broad Street a little more patriotic this summer.

Its new Hometown Heroes program aims to help families honor someone who served or is currently serving in the armed forces.

For $85, residents can purchase a banner that will be displayed on streetlight poles along West Broad Street. Each banner will feature the name, rank and image of the person being honored, the branch of service, and a star denoting active duty (blue), veteran (white), or a memorial designation (gold star).

Such banners commonly are used to celebrate holidays or promote community events, so this was a natural extension, said James Gant, Prairie Township's recreation department director, who is spearheading the project.

"There's so many people who have served that you may never know, and they are in your own community," Gant said. "We want to be a place that honors our veterans and we want it to be a living tribute that the whole community can take pride in."

To be eligible, the service member must be a current or former township resident, or a graduate of Westland High School.

The banners will be displayed from early May through early August, to cover the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays, Gant said.

After they are displayed, the banners will be given to whoever purchased them, with the hope that the families will continue to display flags at home, Gant said.

Trustees approved the project unanimously in January.

Although none of the three township trustees come from military families, they were immediately impressed with the idea, said Steve Kennedy, trustee chairman.

"We thought it was a great idea," Kennedy said.

"They often don't get enough support, so anything we can do to help honor them is great."

The township will cover the costs associated with road crews hanging and removing the banners, township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker said.

Sponsorships and donations also will be accepted, and people can donate to help fund a specific person's banner, Gant said.

The only challenge is that the banner cannot be a surprise; the service member being honored must sign a release form, said Gant, whose father served in the Navy for more than two decades.

"I think that speaks of the sacrifice of our military -- they served, but they don't always want to be honored," Gant said. "There's so many men and women who serve because they think it's the right thing to do. It's been fun to see how many people are excited about recognizing the service of a family member."

Gant said he expects to hang at least a dozen banners in the first year but hopes the program will grow.

"Once the banners are up, I think people will start to see it and start asking questions about how to get involved," he said. "We're hoping to make it a great tradition from here on out and, hopefully, we'll see a new crop of people being honored every year."

Applications for the program will be accepted through April 2.

More information is available on the township website at https://tinyurl.com/ybuzh5rb

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"We want to be a place that honors our veterans and we want it to be a living tribute that the whole community can take pride in."

-- JAMES GANT

Prairie Township recreation

department director