Greenfield plans downtown banners celebrating veterans

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By Jessica Karins

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GREENFIELD — Veterans in Hancock County will be recognized with two annual displays of banners.

The city of Greenfield will spend $1,936 to purchase eight POW/MIA street banners and eight Agent Orange remembrance banners. These would be displayed in downtown Greenfield on or near the respective days recognizing the two groups — the third Friday in September for National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and August 10 for Agent Orange Remembrance Day.

David Hine, a Greenfield resident and Vietnam veteran, presented the proposal earlier this month to the Greenfield City Council. He said he is aware of 10 Hancock County residents who went missing and are presumed to have died or been held as prisoners of war during the Vietnam and Korean wars.

He noted a number of other county residents who were POWs managed to return home.

Many of those soldiers still have family living in the Hancock County area, Hine said.

“I think it’s up to the city to recognize and honor the families of these men. I think it’s the least we can do, and hope that they’ll be returned home,” he said.

“Thousands of our Vietnam veterans have died of the effects of Agent Orange exposure, PTSD, suicide, cancer, and other causes related to their service,” Hine said. “Greenfield has had at least two deaths in the last four months from Agent Orange cancer. Both were good friends… The exact number of our veterans that are fighting the effects of Agent Orange exposure or those that have died from Agent Orange exposure will probably never be known.”

Hine said there are 1,200 Vietnam veterans in Hancock County, and 700 of them are currently receiving treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Hancock County Veterans Services.

“I think we all owe it to our Vietnam veterans to bring awareness of the variety of medical problems that they are encountering,” he said. “With the street banners being displayed, the local families and friends of our POWs and MIAs or Agent Orange victims will know that the city of Greenfield and Hancock County recognize their loss and struggles.”

The POW/MIA banners will feature the commonly-used design of a silhouette in profile and the words “You are not forgotten.” The Agent Orange banners will feature a design of a helmet in addition to the slogan, “The war is over but the battle continues,” and a list of the diseases caused by the substance.

Agent Orange was a chemical herbicide mixture widely used as a defoliant in heavily forested areas of Vietnam. U.S. troops were exposed to the chemical, which was sprayed by aircraft in an effort to kill leafy cover used by enemy soldiers.

Hine said he hoped the banners might raise awareness of health struggles that have not been widely discussed.

Council member Mitch Pendlum, a Vietnam veteran, said was exposed to Agent Orange during his own service.

“I’ve got prostate cancer right now, and they’re taking care of it,” said Pendlum, who was in the Marine Corps. “I’m not bragging on myself, but there’s people among you and you don’t even know it. (Hine) has been an angel sent from above to carry the torch about what they’re going through.”

Hine, who Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell called a veterans’ organization of one, has been involved in several efforts to remember those who have served. He helped create the Hancock County Veterans Park in Greenfield, and in 2013 collected photos of as many Hoosiers who had died in Vietnam as he could. The photos became part of an exhibit that was displayed in Washington D.C.

The council members voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.