Roxbury Supports Its Hometown Heroes
By Katie McFadden
Roxbury residents are beaming with pride this Military Appreciation Month, because when they walk around their community and look up, they now see the many faces of their heroic neighbors who served this country.
The names and faces of friends, relatives and fellow Roxbury residents past and present are now hanging from poles scattered across the private neighborhood as part of the Hometown Heroes Banner Program. It’s all thanks to Roxbury resident and past Chief of the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department, Paul Hedderson.
Having a house in Pennsylvania, Hedderson was inspired by the faces of active military members and veterans that don the poles of various communities in PA. “I knew we have a lot of veterans down here in Roxbury from the wars, and a lot have passed on, but I thought their families would probably like to honor them in some way, and it would be a good way to dress up the community a little bit,” Hedderson said.
Hedderson knows firsthand the importance of honoring our military members and veterans as he comes from a family of U.S. Navy members. Hedderson’s father, Thomas F. Hedderson, served in WWII. His brother, Thomas M. Hedderson, served in Vietnam, doing four tours there, and going on to become a lifer with the Navy, retiring as a Captain. Hedderson himself tried to follow in his family’s footsteps and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but poor eyesight disqualified him. However, his own son, Paul J. Hedderson, carried on the legacy, serving in the War in Afghanistan. All three Heddersons now have banners flying high above Roxbury.
It’s all part of the Hometown Heroes project Hedderson began working on in last August. After drawing inspiration from other communities, he passed along the idea to his Roxbury neighbors, to see who might be interested in sponsoring a banner in honor of their own hometown heroes. For $200, to cover the cost of the banner and the hardware to hang it, plus a small donation to Roxbury’s Pvt. John G. McLaughlin VFW Post #8540, a Roxbury resident or family could sponsor a banner including their servicemember’s photo, name, branch and era they served in.
As Hedderson initially kept his efforts known through word of mouth, it was slow to start, but before he knew it, dozens of neighbors wanted banners. “It really picked up. We did 48 banners in the first round. And now we’re getting ready to put a second order in and have 32 to go,” he said.
Hedderson received requests for banners for active military members to even one for someone’s grandfather that served in WWI. “If they signed up to serve, then I’ll put them on a banner,” he said. Most of the banners include military members who served during WWII and Vietnam. Most were sponsored by the families of the military members, and some were sponsored by groups like Blessed Trinity Parish, which sponsored a banner for Chaplain Colonel Ronald Newland, a current reverend in the parish who served with the U.S. Air Force during the Global War on Terror. Some of the banners serve as a tribute to members of the Greatest Generation that are no longer here and whose numbers are slowly dwindling. “Lawrence Scheriff, who served in WWII, died two weeks before we put his banner up. He was in his 90s,” Hedderson said.
Wanting to waste no time getting the banners up ahead of Memorial Day, Hedderson ordered them in March. He then enlisted the help of some strong neighbors and on Wednesday, April 26, they went around the community with a ladder and hung up the first 48 banners. “They were all whole heartedly gung-ho for it. I have two crews of five people and we went out and covered the whole beach. We did it all in one day,” Hedderson said.
The banners were placed in locations by request of the family who sponsored them, but mostly along the parade route for Roxbury’s annual Mardi Gras celebration in September, plus some along State Road, so they get the ultimate exposure.
The banners have already drawn attention, as Hedderson is readying to place a second order. “We have 32 to go. The ones that weren’t paying attention at first have seen them and want one now,” he said. He hopes to also have those ones up ahead of Memorial Day, so Roxbury will have at least 80 banners flying above the community for all to appreciate and remember what those local servicemembers did for the country.
The response to the Hometown Heroes project has been overwhelming and has already started to inspire neighboring communities. “People think it’s awesome. I’m getting calls from people in Breezy Point that want me to do it there. Hopefully someone from down there can organize it,” he said. “I think everybody should step up and support the veteran causes.”
Hedderson’s project is already helping to support Roxbury’s veterans. As part of the cost for the banners includes a small donation to the local VFW, Kevin McCann of Post #8540 said they’ve wound up with around $3,000 in donations so far.
To Hedderson, a lifelong Roxbury resident, the support comes as no surprise. “Roxbury is a close-knit community that supports our veterans and supports our community,” he said.
Please note that Roxbury is a private community, so the banners within the community are only for the enjoyment of residents and their guests. Roxbury residents who may be interested in purchasing a banner can contact Hedderson at Pdh352@aol.com
For those who are interested in learning more about the Hometown Heroes Banner Project and possibly starting their own effort, head to: www.Hometownheroesbanners.com