'Each has served with honor': Vernon Hills' program recognizes current, former military with street banners
Flags were placed on veterans' graves Saturday morning at Willow Lawn Memorial Park in Vernon Hills, and banners recognizing residents who served in the armed forces have been installed in preparation for Memorial Day and the annual Fourth of July parade.
High school students and others on behalf of Vernon American Legion Post 1247 flagged the graves at Willow Lawn and on Friday did the same at Vernon Township Cemetery.
On a broader scale, the village-backed Vernon Hills Honors Military Banner Program is making an official debut in 2023.
Each year, Post 1247 and the village partner to honor residents who served or are serving in the U.S. armed forces with street banners featuring the honorees' names, photo, rank and branch of service.
The 5-foot by 30-inch banners are created and installed at no cost to veterans or their families. They'll be in place from May, which is designated as military appreciation month, to Veterans Day in November.
The idea surfaced last year when Trustee David Oppenheim, who saw a similar initiative in Poughkeepsie, New York, asked village staff to research a banner program for Vernon Hills.
Banners were sporadically installed last summer and fall as the program was in the formative stage. This year, banners featuring the classes of 2022 and 2023 recently were affixed to light standards on Deerpath Drive and nearby streets along the parade route.
More than 500 veterans live in Vernon Hills and others are currently serving, according to Jon Petrillo, assistant village manager and Army veteran who partners with Post 1247 on the program. Twenty applicants will be selected for the banner honor each year.
"The program has received tremendous positive feedback," Petrillo said.
The program and honorees from both years as the first official class were recognized during the May 2 village board meeting.
"While each person has a distinct legacy and a special story, all have two important criteria in common," Petrillo said at the time. "Each has called Vernon Hills home and each has served with honor."
Also during the meeting, Post 1247 Commander Todd Renihan, who collaborates on the program with Petrillo, saluted Oppenheim.
"You blew us away," he said. "It's a big deal."
The 2023 honorees include a ranger who served in World War II as well as veterans from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq.
Among them are Army Sgt. Guy E. Mylander, who was awarded the Bronze Star for "Meritorious Achievement in Ground Operations against Hostile Forces." Mylander was instrumental in providing map grid coordinates to a helicopter pilot in order for him to locate personnel in need of assistance.
He was nominated by his wife, Elizabeth. She said she appreciates how the village has embraced the idea of celebrating and supporting residents who have or are serving in the armed forces.
"We have received so many calls from neighbors," after seeing the banner, she added.
Also honored this year was the late former village Trustee James T. Heier, who served on the USS Corregidor as a Navy Seaman during World War II.
Visit the website for a full list of honorees and for information and to submit an application to the Vernon Hills Honors Military Banner Program.