The City of Santa Fe is honoring local service members in a very special way. It’s becoming the first city in New Mexico to adopt the Hometown Heroes Project. Every driver down Cerrillos Road will now see the faces of 20 people, all area military—from POWs to those killed in action, living veterans, and more.
“They really fought for us, and as a result, they made great sacrifices,” said JoAnne Vigil Coppler, a Santa Fe City Councilor. “These banners are a symbol of our appreciation, the City of Santa Fe’s appreciation to our veterans. We might not know them all, but we do owe them all.”
The family of one featured veteran, Robert Dieringer, says they’re honored to see our military be recognized. “I’m very honored. I know there was only 20 that were selected and for him to be up there, it’s very special to me and my family,” said Jeff Dieringer, Robert’s son.
Though Robert has since passed, Jeff says the project is a way to honor many of those who didn’t get the recognition they deserved upon returning home. “A lot of these military guys, they came back from the service and there wasn’t a parade for them,” said Dieringer. “There wasn’t any recognition. The just ended their tour and went on home.”
Don Christy, a local veteran who spearheaded this project, hopes the city will continue to make changes honoring our military. “I would like to see, possibly, this area maybe renamed or at least designated as Hometown Hero Highway or Hometown Hero Road,” said Christy. “I hope the City of Santa Fe will adopt this program to be an annual event.”
With dozens of street lights and endless possibilities, Hometown Heroes Project organizers say the banners, which will hang through Veterans’ Day, remind the community of the importance of recognizing those who serve. “A veteran is a veteran is a veteran. Regardless of where they are from,” said Christy. “Their mom or dad might live here, or they want a banner of their child that lives in Florida. They’re welcome to have their banner on our city streets.”
The city had to change an ordinance in order to allow the banners to be hung, but only allowed 20. “We had an ordinance that only allowed 400-year anniversary banners and nothing else,” said Vigil Coppler. “I developed a resolution to allow the veterans’ banners to be hung and we chose the poles on Cerrillos Road.”
Those behind the project say they already have a waiting list of at least 20 more. Organizers hope to eventually expand even further, adding two banners to each of the 90 street lights between the starting point and the freeway, all honoring as many service members as possible.