Military banner program needs volunteers

By Jessica Weston - CITY REPORTER

    The Ridgecrest Military Banner Program is in dire need of volunteers.

    That is the message from Mayor Peggy Breeden. Breeden issued a community challenge at the most recent City Council meeting, urging people to help save the program. As of Thursday, however, the fate of the banners was literally up in the air.

    "I want to talk about military banners," Breeden said during her mayor's comments at the meeting May 20. "Somebody has to step forward."

    Breeden did not mince words. "The ones that are flapping in the wind, those that are ripped apart, we need to do something."

    Breeden described the condition of some of the banners as "atrocious, despicable," and "not respectful of the service that has been provided."

    "I want us to take those down."

    Breeden talked about having the city help by possibly providing equipment to take the banners down. As of Thursday, she said, nothing has been decided.

    Needed are access to lifts to get at the banners, as well as volunteers.

    Breeden said she is not sure about insurance requirements, but is determined to do something about the issue.

    "When people go through and see our military banners flapping in the wind because they're ripped apart, [it's] not something I want to see."

    "My husband was killed in Vietnam and I don't want anybody else's sons or daughters sitting there watching their banners all ripped up. It [repairs] has got to happen."

    Breeden put out a call to the "VFW, American Legion, veterans: you should be standing up at least saying, 'What can I do?'"

    "Silence doesn't make this happen, we need your help."

    The Ridgecrest Military Banner program was originally spearheaded by Jerry Taylor. Banners were first mounted in Freedom Park in May of 2011 and later on China Lake Boulevard and Ridgecrest Boulevard. They have been created to honor residents or relatives of people living in Ridgecrest, the Indian Wells Valley or Trona.

    According to a Facebook post on February 6, a replacement lead for the program is being sought.

    The program has seen its share of ups and downs. It was the subject of controversy last summer, when a Ridgecrest Banner Program volunteer removed 10 or 11 banners from Ridgecrest Boulevard on what some called short notice from the city.

    The program received a 2012 Award of Merit from the Kern Council of Governments, and Taylor was also singled out for his contributions. In 2011, he was named a Paul Harris Fellow for his leadership with the program.

    In addition to Taylor, other individuals singled out for helping the program have included former Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce CEO Nathan Ahle, Terry May from Mediacom and Mike Chierotti of Factory GraphX.