Niagara Gazette

October 28, 2012

NT's Hometown Hero effort called a success in its first year

By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette —

NORTH TONAWANDA — It began in May in front of city hall, when the first Hometown Hero banner was raised along Payne Avenue. 

An image of Lance Cpl. Timothy Serwinowski, the local high school graduate who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, was hoisted in place. His mother Sally Urban and father Phil Serwinowski stood below a light pole in an emotional ceremony joined by friends and family.

Urban had been looking for a way to pay tribute to her son after hearing about similar efforts in townships throughout Western New York.

Mayor Rob Ortt told those assembled he had hoped to have dozens of banners along the thoroughfare, and while the city didn't quite meet that mark, requests began to trickle in throughout the summer from Lumber City residents whose sons and daughters are serving in the military. 

By early October, there were nine banners posted along the street all the way down to the city market. And while the city had hoped to have the entire length of the thoroughfare blanketed with them, more are on their way. 

Joe McMahon is one of those people. His son, Daniel J. McMahon, who is in the U.S. Army's 108th infantry regiment, has been shuffled from Iraq, to Afghanistan to Kuwait since the beginning of the year, and will be making his way home in early 2013. 

While the city have already taken the banners down for the winter to preserve the visual salutations and McMahon didn't get his son's finished and up in time, he said he'll string it in front of his home for the soldier's Jan. 28 return. 

"He's been deployed for nine months," McMahon said. "His banner should be done on Monday or Tuesday."

The city will again pick up the cause in April or May, when Ortt said he hopes more banners will be secured. 

"Obviously we're thrilled with the number of people who already reached out to this office and wanted their loved ones to be recognized," Ortt said. "But I also think a lost of credit belong to Sally Urban who took a tragedy and turned it into a positive for other people and that's what being a veteran is all about." 

He added: "I think that people in North Tonawanda understand there's a cost to our way of life and a cost to these conflicts and they were able to honor that."

Bob Clark has been in the military most of his life along with several members of his family. His daughter Elena is a staff sergeant and combat flight medic in the U.S. Army, and was recently in Texas for training. 

Clark had a banner created for her earlier this year after she's completed two tours in Iraq and another two in Afghanistan. 

"She's such a tremendous asset to the military," Clark said in a recent interview. "But it's not just for my daughter but for all the young service personnel from North Tonawanda and Western New York. I really think we should be as proud of them as possible and show it as often as we possibility can."