Santa Fe, NM is working to expand the veteran banner display area

Over the past three years, U.S. Air Force veteran Donald Christy has worked to help place some 200 banners that honor those who have served in the military on lamp posts along the southern portion of Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, NM (City of Santa Fe Facebook)

SANTA FE, NM (Tribune News Service) – For the past three years, U.S. Air Force veteran Donald Christy has worked to help place some 200 banners that honor those who have served in the military on lampposts along the along the southern part of Cerrillos Road.

But with 142 more banners on the waiting list and shrinking space along this stretch of Santa Fe’s main thoroughfare, Christy said he hopes the city finds more streetlights that can be used for the increasingly popular program.

“It’s a great program, but we need more sticks,” Christy said. “A lot of these people [veterans] left and did not return. We’re just trying to honor them.”

Help may be on the way.

The city council’s public works committee on Monday approved a resolution that extends the availability of streetlights along Cerrillos to the intersection of St. Michael’s Drive and Osage Avenue.

The resolution was unanimously approved without discussion. If approved by City Council, the resolution would eliminate additional poles along Cerrillos Road for awaiting families and others interested in honoring a veteran.

The displays, part of the Hometown Heroes national banner project, include an image of the service member in uniform, name, rank, branch and years of service. Family members pay for displays, spending around $156 for vinyl banners and aluminum stands.

The banners run along Cerrillos between Rodeo Road and Interstate 25 and are displayed between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, after which they are removed to protect them from winter weather.

Christy helped launch the project in 2019 to pay tribute to her father and brother. Her father, Harry Christy, served in the US Army during World War II while her brother served in the US Air Force.

The first banners were erected that year after council approved a resolution presented by former councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler. The resolution allowed the installation of 30 public lighting banners.

The resolution was later changed to allow banners on more streetlights as the program grew in popularity. In 2021, Christy noted that the town was running out of poles to hang the banners from and he contacted the town to discuss expanding the program.

Councilman Michael Garcia, who addressed the issue after Vigil Coppler left council, said he’s proud the city supported the program and doesn’t expect any pushback from the proposal.

Garcia said the resolution was to be heard at Wednesday’s board meeting, but likely will have to be deferred to a Feb. 9 meeting. The resolution must pass at least two committees before being heard at the board meeting.

“I look forward to a stronger partnership for this program in the future,” Garcia said.

Councilor Chris Rivera said he bought a banner for his father, a Vietnam War veteran, and can speak from experience of the families’ pride in their displays.

“It’s a great way to honor our veterans for a few months,” Rivera said. “They’re not in place all year round. It’s just a great program in my eyes.”

Christy said the city has always worked with the local branch of the American Legion to put up the banners. The American Legion collects the fees and materials and supplies the banners to the city for the workers to set up. In the past, the Public Service Company of New Mexico has also helped with the installation.

Garcia said he hopes the city can continue to provide support staff for the program, and Rivera said any extra work the city takes on is worth it.

“It’s worth doing,” he said. “It’s a program where even the staff who put up the banners feel honored to do so.”

Rivera and Christy said they are encouraged by the attention the program has brought to the city. Santa Fe is one of 100 cities in 11 states and the only city in New Mexico to participate in the project.

Christy said he spoke with Mayor Alan Webber about the banners and was assured the program had the full support of the city.

Director of Public Works Regina Wheeler, in a short telephone interview on Monday, assured that the banners would be installed in the near future.

“The banners will go up,” she said. “That’s for sure.”

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