Community

Star-spangled banners recognize local military members

Lynette George is a driving force behind the Kitsap Blue Star Banner program in the county. Banners are placed along roads to honor both serving and fallen soldiers.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Lynette George is a driving force behind the Kitsap Blue Star Banner program in the county. Banners are placed along roads to honor both serving and fallen soldiers.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

For Lynette George, patriotism isn’t an option. Nor, she might contend, should it be.

Because George, like many living in Kitsap, is no stranger to military life or the effects of war. She served for four years in the Navy; her two sons both completed two consecutive tours in Iraq, one a member of the Marine Corps, the other Army; and for nearly three decades, George, of Seabeck, has worked as a full-time Navy budget officer.

But it is in her off-time, what little of it she has, that she makes room for patriotism.

Grasping the top of a vertical six-foot banner, holding it the way a scribe might unveil a sacred scroll, George shows off what form that patriotism has taken. The banner, one of 60 throughout Kitsap, boasts the name of an active military member, their branch of service, and a bold blue star. Organizer of the nonprofit Blue Star Banner Program of Kitsap County, George raises money and sells sponsorships to area individuals and businesses looking to support what she calls “hometown heroes“ — military men and women currently serving at home or overseas.

For now, the program covers Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale and Poulsbo. In Poulsbo, four of the six military members signed up to receive a star are still in need of sponsorship.

Countywide, there are 60 seeking sponsors.

“Every single person here in this county relies on the military,” George noted. “I wanted to do something that shows that we care, we want to support them.”

Her quest hasn’t been without its obstacles: Since inspiration struck four years ago when George saw a similar program in California, she’s met with mayors, spoken before city councils, hiked through banner-hanging logistics and put in face-time with area business owners.

Now, with budget stretched to their limit, asking for funding isn’t making anyone’s list of particularly pleasant things to do.

Still, George and the Blue Star Banner Program pursue a mission to strengthen, support and enhance Kitsap patriotism.

“I don’t think the public actually realizes what the military actually does for us,” George said.

She listed some of the many sacrifices of serving the country and safeguarding its freedom — missing holidays with families, missing birthdays. And the sacrifices don’t just occur when the country is at war.

“We need to recognize them all the time,” she said.

Their service alone, she explained, is reason enough to thank and honor them.

But she also understands the current economic difficulties. To potential business sponsors, she would say it’s a matter of, where possible, prioritization.

When that doesn’t occur, cases such as one local serviceman whose banner was in need of sponsorship arise.

That serviceman, after waiting weeks and checking for updates on the Blue Star Banner Web site from his post in Iraq, ultimately sponsored his own.

The cost of a sponsorship is $350 for a banner that will hang three-five years. If that serviceman or woman ends their military career, they will receive the banner.

Sponsors can have their names or the name of their business placed on the banner. The banners are hung throughout Kitsap on city poles.

The banner program also hangs gold star banners for fallen service members.

Six of those banners hang in the county.

Now, with both her sons “home safe and sound,” George is also reaping the support of other local nonprofits that have taken to helping her raise banner dollars.

A fundraising ride on Flag Day, June 14, will wheel out from Legend Harley-Davidson in Silverdale. To learn more about this event and the Blue Star Banner program, visit www.kitsapbluestar.org/.

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