Batesville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3183 Commander Delbert Williamson introduced Steven Harmeyer, Batesville's community development director, at the post's Jan. 8 meeting by saying, "He's the guy who spearheaded the banner project. We wanted to show our appreciation for what you did."
"He brought this idea (to display military photos of area residents on banners throughout the city) to us first ... I thought, 'This was outstanding.'
"It was a bigger success than anybody could have imagined."
With that, VFW members gave Harmeyer a standing ovation.
The commander read a letter of appreciation to Harmeyer: "On behalf of Batesville VFW Post 3183, I would like to thank you for your dedication, perseverance and all your hard work this past year working on the Military Recognition Banner Program for the city of Batesville. When you first brought the concept to us, we knew it was going to be a success. Little did we know just how incredibly successful it would turn out. The overwhelming positive impact it had on our veterans and the community at large cannot be overstated.
"There are fewer and fewer communities, both large and small, that are honoring their veterans the way Batesville has this past year. The banners are and will continue to be a visual reminder of the sacrifices made by Batesville’s past and present veterans, not only to our community, but to all who pass through it. This project has become more than a nostalgic patriotic gesture. It is a rare piece of Americana, a Norman Rockwell image from a bygone era.
"Calvin Coolidge is often quoted, particularly on Veterans Day. He said, 'A nation that forgets its defenders is a nation that is soon forgotten.' America has not forgotten its men and women who have served this country. Batesville exemplifies these same morals and values that are every bit as true today as they were almost 100 years ago when Coolidge spoke these words. Thanks to you, Batesville will continue to showcase its veterans, some who have given the ultimate sacrifice, by lining its streets with these images for all to see."
Harmeyer responded, "Thank you for the kind words. I really wanted to do this."
The community development director's goal is to complete a publication "about every single veteran I can find."
Of the appreciation ceremony, Harmeyer said, "It means a lot and I truly appreciate it."
Mayor Mike Bettice confirmed, "This was an idea that Steven came up with." The city's original goal was to install 50 banners, so leaders asked the Batesville City Council for financial support. "In a matter of weeks, we went from 50 to 100. Applications just kept coming in" even after banners were flying. People asked, "What about my loved one?"
Bettice said now 200 banners are part of the program. He observed Harmeyer "has put in a lot of hours making this happen. It really has set Batesville apart."