RAPID CITY, S. D. – Rapid City, the City of Presidents, was voted the most patriotic city in South Dakota. Home of Ellsworth Air Force Base and the South Dakota National Guard, it is no surprise that the banner program has become a huge success. Growing from 20 banners in 2017 to 300 banners this year, the banner project honors veterans from the Civil War to present day.
Currently, the banner program has a waiting list of people wanting to honor fathers, mothers, and other relatives in the service.
Bill Casper says, “That’s one of the fun things about this project. I get phone calls and e-mails virtually every day asking if they can sponsor a veteran or veterans. There’s no limit as to how many you can sponsor if you want to. A lot of people that live in the area come downtown. Families have come in from out of town. We have one family that had to bring the two step ladders because there were three tiers of family standing under their banner. I’ve got people sponsoring from California, Nevada, Wisconsin, Minnesota and some of them have actually come out. They want to know when their banners are up so they can plan their vacations to come out. So, we’ve had a lot of people from out of state. Last year, when we put the Lakota Code Talker up, there was a smudging ceremony going on. A gentleman walked up and said, ‘What’s going on?’ And I told him and he said, ‘Well, I’m from Texas. We never have anything like this down there.’ So that kind of stuff makes it feel good.”
You can visit the website at veteranshonorbannerproject.com. On the website you can view all the veterans alphabetically.
Casper explains, “We’re starting to write down histories that we’re getting, and eventually you’ll be able to go on a banner and there’ll be a little device saying, ‘Read more’ and you’ll be able to go and read more about these veterans. Some of the histories are very exciting. We’ve got one individual who actually trained with the British commandos who fought in Tunisia and, we’ve got a gentleman who was on the on the USS Juno with The Sullivan Brothers. He was killed at 19. Another sailor was killed in a kamikaze attack.”
Another history is that of Som Quan Wong.
Casper describes, “He was the highest ranking Marine officer in WWII of Chinese descent. And his ancestors came out here during the goldrush days and established a home here. And he’s the result of that, up in Deadwood. His great granddaughter, who lives in California, and she’s sponsored him. She’s been trying to get out here during the summer with COVID and things. She hasn’t made it, but we’re hoping maybe this summer that she’ll be able to come out and actually see the banner.”
So if someone wants to have a banner put up, what do they have to do to go about doing that?
Casper’s goal is to have a banner on every utility pole. He says, “I’d love it, right from the time you came into town until the time you left town.”