By Conrad Dudderar
Two Yukon military veterans who passed away in June are being remembered as Yukon 66 Main Street launches its third annual “Yukon Salutes” banner project.
Mike Geers and Tom Thomas are among military heroes and first responders who have been featured in banner displays on street poles along Yukon’s Route 66 corridor.
Geers, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from 1967-71 who served in Vietnam, died June 8 at age 76.
The Yukon civic leader and commercial real estate broker was heavily involved in the Yukon Veterans Museum. He served as vice commander of American Legion Post 160 and an ambassador for the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.
Thomas, a U.S. Air Force veteran from 1970-76 who served in Vietnam, died June 13 at age 74.
A Tinker Air Force Base retiree, he was influential in helping start the Yukon Veterans Museum and served as a board member and dedicated volunteer.
Banners will be hung this fall as a tribute to Geers and Thomas as part of the 2022 Yukon Salutes project.
“This means the world to their families,” Yukon Main Street board member Angelique Morton said.
Customized street pole banners will be proudly displayed along Yukon’s Main Street and Garth Brooks Boulevard from mid-October through Nov. 11 (Veterans Day).
Each banner will be customized with the honoree’s photo, name and details about their service.
“We want to recognize the selfless service to community and country of these ‘hometown heroes’,” Yukon Main Street Director Vicki Davis said. “It is our humble privilege to honor our military members and first responders through this program.”
The idea of the Yukon Salutes banner program came from discussions about how to keep Main Street relative and draw people downtown at a time when COVID-19 had forced many businesses to close.
“I mentioned the veteran banners on display that I had seen during a Main Street training in Guymon,” Davis related. “We immediately embraced the opportunity to honor our community’s military members in such a nice and beautiful tribute.”
There were 40 military banners displayed in 2020, then 45 banners in 2021 when first responders were added.
BANNER ORDERS DUE BY AUG. 1
Banner sponsorships are $150 each. Sponsors may choose to feature a worthy active military member, veteran or first responder.
“We will have a minimum of 40 banners but can include an unlimited number,” Davis noted. “We’d love to fill our Main Street corridor with both our veterans and first responders.
“The order deadline is Aug. 1.”
A ceremony to officially unveil the 2022 Yukon Salutes banners is planned Saturday, Oct. 8 in downtown Yukon.
In the previous two years, the banner unveiling was a pleasant surprise to many of the honorees and family members.
Street pole banners in general provide a “sense of place” that is inviting and serves as a traffic-calming measure, Yukon’s Main Street director noted.
The City of Yukon has several sets of banners displayed throughout the year to celebrate various seasons and promote community events like Rock the Route and the Oklahoma Czech Festival.
“I like to consider these colorful and beautifully designed pieces as part of our downtown public art collection,” Davis said.
The benefits of having the Yukon Salutes banners have far exceeded Yukon 66 Main Street’s goal to honor local heroes and draw people to downtown, she added.
“We worked with Mayor Shelli Selby to proclaim October 11 to November 11 of each year to be ‘Veterans Appreciation Month’ in Yukon,” Davis said.
The proclamation was read and presented during a November ’21 ribbon cutting ceremony and reception inside the Yukon Veterans Museum, 1012 W Main.
“Last year, we added a proclamation to recognize National First Responders Day, which is October 28,” Davis said. “The proclamation was read during a Yukon City Council meeting with several first responders in attendance, many of whom did not know that there was such a day of recognition.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring a Yukon Salutes tribute banner should call the Yukon Main Street office at (405) 350-5999 or visit yukon66mainsteet.com.