CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) RESOURCE CENTER Read More
Add To Favorites

62 banners highlighting area veterans on display in Waterloo

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier - 5/24/2024

May 24—WATERLOO — After the first year of banners commemorating veterans were displayed downtown, Kelly Ward thought it would be the perfect gift for her husband.

She purchased a banner from the Waterloo Exchange Club. The 62 banners featuring local veterans were highlighted Thursday during a Lincoln Park ceremony. They were recently attached to light poles lining Fourth Street as part of the Veteran's Way project in downtown.

Her husband, Mitchell Ward, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 to 1992. He was deployed during the Gulf War and saw combat.

While eating at The Screaming Eagle last week, she saw his face on a banner hanging outside the restaurant and decided that was the perfect time to surprise him.

"He was born and raised here, you know, in Waterloo and then decided to come back and start a family here," she said. "So I just felt it was important to honor him."

The banners are a collaboration between the city of Waterloo, Experience Waterloo, Main Street Waterloo and the Waterloo Exchange Club.

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart noted the city highlights veterans in other ways, such as the Grout Museum District's Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, the Sullivan Brothers Plazaat the Waterloo Convention Center, and the colors of red, white and blue lighting up the Fourth Street bridge at the top of every hour.

"We want to say that we're not just a place that recognizes veterans, but we are a place that supports veterans and loves our veterans," he said.

The U.S. National Parks Services also saw the city's efforts in highlighting veterans. In December, the federal entity named Waterloo an American World War II Heritage City. There are 10 other cities across the country with this designation.

The program honors the contributions of municipalities and their citizens who stepped into the workforce to support the war effort.

In the 1940s, Waterloo was known as "Factory City." Once wartime began, factories switched to making military supplies. Companies like John Deere, Rath Packing, Chamberlain Manufacturing and Powers Manufacturing had $6 billion in U.S. Department of Defense contracts, according to former mayor Tim Hurley, who helped spearhead the application.

John Deere made tank transmissions and airplane parts. Rath began feeding the troops — providing 27 train cars a day full of meat. Other factories produced bombs, munitions, clothing, tents and other personal and tactical equipment.

Some may not know about local companies' efforts during the war but most know about the five Sullivan brothers.

On Nov. 13, 1942, the USS Juneau was destroyed in the South Pacific, killing 700 sailors, including all five brothers from Waterloo. It was the largest single family combat loss in American military history.

Over four years, Waterloo sent more than 8,100 citizens into the service. Of those, 255 did not return.

Hurley said he read an article about another town receiving the designation and researched it more.

"When I read the criteria ... I just rose out of my chair and shouted to no one, 'That's Waterloo!'"

Yolando Loveless, the director of Black Hawk County Veterans Affair, said World War II wouldn't have been won "without the beans and bullets" that sustained troops. He added that the Sullivans put Waterloo on the map.

"Other cities don't have that legacy," he said. The U.S. Navy veteran said the city is here because of the sacrifices veterans before him have made. "That's why Waterloo should be recognized."

The banners can honor veterans, both living and deceased.

"We need to, I think, honor and give the respect that a lot of these veterans didn't receive," Ward said. "A lot of them are living with disabilities that can't be seen. We need to focus on that transition, knowing that they're an important part of our community."

This year's banners will stay up from Memorial Day to Veteran's Day. Those interested in buying one for next year can go to waterlooveteransway.com and asked to be notified when applications open.

___

(c)2024 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)

Visit Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) at www.wcfcourier.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.