It's great to hear that, through a nomination by the local 40 & 8 Voiture 903, Lock Haven has been named "City of the Year" in Pennsylvania by this charitable and patriotic organization.
According to Bernie Zbicki, Chef de Guerre of Voiture 903, and John Cashner, Correspondant for the state organization, Lock Haven earned the title with its Hometown Hero Banner Program that honors veterans and soldiers through hundreds of individual banners in Lock Haven's downtown.
Other points in the community's favor include the American Veterans Traveling Tribute a replica of the Vietnam Wall with displays of those who sacrificed their lives in other wars that visited the city last fall for a week-long commemoration in connection with the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In presenting the award to City Council on Monday night, Zbicki and Cashner also pointed to the many flags that can be seen flying throughout the community on any day of the year.
Part of the perspective is knowing what the 40 & 8 is all about.
The organization was founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from France after World War I. Originally an arm of The American Legion, the 40 & 8 became an independent and separately incorporated veteran's organization in 1960. Membership is by invitation of honorably discharged veterans and honorably serving members of the United States Armed Forces.
According to the organization's web site at www.fortyandeight.org, it is committed to charitable and patriotic aims.
"Our purpose is to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, to promote the well being of veterans and their widows and orphans, and to actively participate in selected charitable endeavors, which include programs that promote child welfare and nurse's training. The titles and symbols of the Forty & Eight reflect its First World War origins. Americans were transported to the battle front on French trains within boxcars stenciled with a "40/8," denoting its capacity to hold either forty men or eight horses. This uncomfortable mode of transportation was familiar to all who fought in the trenches; a common small misery among American soldiers who thereafter found "40/8" a lighthearted symbol of the deeper service, sacrifice and unspoken horrors of war that bind all who have borne the battle."
That said, Lock Haven can be proud of many things in terms of its patriotism and, of course, of the Hometown Hero Banner Program. Under that program, approximately 1,300 banners of veterans and active duty soldiers, marines, sailors and merchant marines have proudly been displayed along the streets of downtown Lock Haven. That includes the about 420 waving in the wind now.
Thanks largely to Downtown Lock Haven Inc. and the monumental efforts of the Clinton County Office of Veterans Affairs, and its director, David Bower, the Hometown Hero Program continues to receive local, state and national recognition.
The county Veterans Affairs Office really has been the integral in Downtown Lock Haven's efforts that will include the launching of a fourth cycle of banners next year.
The city itself also played a very important role in facilitating the banners.
And we certainly cannot forget the countless volunteers who have made it all possible - and continue to do so.
Many communities and organizations are replicating what Lock Haven has done with Hometown Hero Banners to honor their own.
Admirably, the state award now puts Lock Haven in competition to receive the 40 & 8 organization's highest honor, Cashner said. This includes Cities of the Year from 40 & 8 Grands across the nation, as well as in Germany, France and other countries.
We all should be proud. Thanks, 40 & 8.