The first banner hung to recognize area veterans snapped in the warm breeze along Via Bella as relatives of fallen soldier Tim Aikey proudly looked on.
"I think it's beautiful," remarked Aikey's mother, Alice Aikey of Warrensville. "That's the one I have hanging on the wall (at home)."
Tim Aikey's banner is among 90 that motorists and pedestrians will be able to see along light poles lining Via Bella and other streets in the area around Wegmans supermarket as part of an effort to recognize hometown heroes.
Volunteer Jack Rooney, whose brother-in-law served and died in Vietnam, hangs a banner honoring his military service. The banners can be seen on Via Bella.
Aikey's banner has special significance, as he was the first Lycoming County soldier to die in combat in the Vietnam War.
He was killed Jan. 2, 1966 while serving with the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, according to his brother-in-law Jack Rooney.
He was just 19.
Rooney, owner of Jack and Sarah's Restaurant, Williamsport, was among family members of veterans, business owners and others who bought banners honoring a veteran.
Proceeds from purchase of the banners, created by Fast Signs, Williamsport go to Valley Prevention Services, Inc., a United Way agency.
Geoff Arthur, Valley Prevention executive director, noted that volunteers turned up Saturday to help erect 50 of the banners. It is hoped to put up the remaining banners next weekend.
"These will hang for a year," he said.
Sarah Rooney, Aikey's sister, said it was important to recognize veterans such as her brother who died fighting for what he believed in - his nation's freedom.
She can recall him writing a letter home from Vietnam expressing those very feelings.
"I think if he hadn't been killed he would have made it (military) a career," she said.
Both mother and sister agreed the day was an emotional one for them.
"I'm just glad they did something like this," Sarah said.
She noted that similar banner projects have been done in Lock Haven and Scranton.
Alice Aikey noted that she recently attended a reunion of her son's Airborne Brigade in Myrtle Beach, S.C. where she was able to finally meet up with some of the soldiers with whom he served.
She said a day doesn't go by when she doesn't think of her son.
The banners included veterans of various U.S. conflicts including World War II, Korea and Iraq. But veterans serving in peacetime are being honored as well.
Arthur noted that volunteers donated their time to help hang the banners.
He credited the city of Williamsport for supporting the project.
Among the volunteers were Pam Musser.
"It's a small sacrifice for what they've (veterans) done for us," she said.