HERMON, Maine — Marching in a parade usually doesn’t require homework, but Hermon High School’s Jr. ROTC members had a special assignment given to them by local veteran Harry Rideout ahead of marching in Bangor’s Veterans Day event on Wednesday.
Rideout has organized what he is calling “Banners of Heroes,” a program that commemorates the service of individual veterans. He is asking the Hermon JROTC members to carry the banners in the parade and to learn the stories behind the names on the banners.
“He knows he can count on us,” Maj. Marcel Fortier, senior Army instructor at Hermon High, told cadets on Oct. 30, the day the project was unveiled to students. “This is why he came to us first, instead of Bangor or Brewer or Old Town. This is a very rewarding endeavor, and I know it will be for you as well.”
“Banners of Heroes,” made possible through donations and a group of volunteers, has put the name of every military person with Maine ties who has died while serving the country since Sept. 11, 2001, on individual banners the cadets will carry.
“I just wanted to honor the fallen since 9/11,” Rideout said. “The first one, he was at the Pentagon” when four planes were hijacked and crashed on U.S. soil, starting the Global War on Terror.
The Maine Army National Guard’s Survivor Outreach Services provided the list of names of Maine service members, or those who have Maine ties, who are State of Maine Gold Star Honorable Service Medal recipients.
The homework assignment for the Jr. ROTC cadets, to whom Fortier teaches leadership skills with retired 1st Sgt. Rob Jenkins, is designed to educate them about each and every soldier.
“We wanted it to be a little bit more than just carrying a banner,” Fortier said.
The 73 banners will be carried again during the Memorial Day parade. Then they will be delivered to the hometowns of each Mainer listed. The banners will find permanent homes at American Legion halls, Veterans of Foreign War gathering places, other military clubs or town halls, Rideout said.
Hermon, which is Rideout’s hometown, provided him with a place to plan the program with other volunteers, and The First bank provided money to pay for the banners.
The original idea was to post the banners on a series of telephone poles in town, but that changed when Rideout ran into Fortier, who reminded him the Hawk Battalion has 101 cadets.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Rideout, a longtime veterans advocate who helped coordinate the Support Our Troops of Greater Bangor in 2003, now known at the Maine Troop Greeters.
“I think it’s a really cool idea,” said Capt. Sabrina Growe, 17, a senior at Hermon High School and the Alpha Company commander.
“It’s a nice honor to support those who have fought for us,” added 2nd Lt. Jerika Myers, 17, a junior.
The parade starts at 10:15 a.m. at the Brewer Shopping Mall and makes its way to Bangor along Wilson Street for the 1 ½-mile parade route that crosses the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, then turns right onto Main Street and ends at Exchange Street.