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Paying Tribute

One-of-a-kind program in Oklahoma honors Texas County veterans

Paying Tribute

Adam Garrison (center) is a service technician for Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC). Photo by Jim Norris

 

It may be out of your way to drive down Main Street in Guymon this Veterans Day, but it will be worth your while. 

In a special tribute to those in Texas County, Oklahoma, who have served their country, veterans banners line both sides of the street on the decorative light poles.

One of the young faces on those banners belongs to Adam Garrison who today is a service technician for Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC). TCEC serves electricity to members in the Oklahoma Panhandle and surrounding area. Garrison marked 13 years at TCEC last month and it’s been 13 years since he left the Army. He was a medic from 1994 to 2007, receiving two bronze stars during his service. He was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. 

Garrison says it was strange to hang his own banner, but it was also an honor.

“My wife Rachel ordered the banner,” he says. “It is an honor to have a banner. I’ve hung banners for several family members but to hang my own banner up was different. It was different to see my face then compared to what it is now.”

Garrison’s banner was the 100th one ordered as part of the Guymon troop banners program. He has hung the banners of seven family members, going all the way back to Jonathan Couch who served in the Civil War.

American Legion Post 31 in Guymon is the program’s sponsor. The tribute program manager is TCEC member Jim Norris.

While Norris is not a veteran, his father and grandfather were veterans. His sister told him about a troop banner program in the community of Chester, West Virginia, which is where Norris purchased a banner to honor his father, James R. Norris, who served in the Navy during the Korean War.

As a former councilman and mayor of Guymon, Norris had connections within the Guymon community to initiate the program locally. He made a presentation to the local American Legion and they agreed to sponsor the program if Norris would manage it. Norris also presented the program to the city council for approval. 

The program launched in August 2017 with the dedication of a banner for World War II veteran Capt. James Darden. Today, more than 150 banners line Guymon’s Main Street with more ordered regularly. So many have been ordered that they hang on both sides of the light poles and the program may soon expand to go down 12th Street too. 

“As a community, when you see that many banners, it makes you proud for Guymon,” Norris says. “If you wore a uniform, you deserve a banner. If you served and may not have been in a conflict, you still need a banner. You did your duty. You went where they told you to go. You don’t get to decide where you go when you serve.”

Norris says the banners program has succeeded with the support of several organizations, including the American Legion Post 31, the city of Guymon, Main Street Guymon and the Guymon Daily Herald. The city of Guymon hangs the banners with assistance from local cooperatives TCEC and PTCI when needed. Main Street Guymon director Melyn Johnson, a TCEC member, writes photo captions about the veterans when their banners are dedicated. Those captions and dedication photos by Norris run in the Guymon Daily Herald newspaper, usually on the front page. Norris says the newspaper recognition really matters to the families. He provides the information Johnson needs for the stories by listening to the families of the veterans.

Currently, Guymon is the only community in Oklahoma with a troop banners program. Garrison and Norris both say they hope to see the program started in other areas of the state. Johnson says someone from New Mexico drove through Guymon and was inspired by the banners to start a program in their own town. It can be done, even if you need to modify the design of the banners with small slits like Guymon did to account for strong winds.

If you have a loved one with military service who has lived in Texas County, Oklahoma, and you  would like to honor them with a tribute banner, you will find the application on troopbanners.com. The application requires a good quality photograph of the veteran, a $150 fee, and a copy of the serviceperson’s DD-214. In addition to the 30”x47” banner, the family receives an 11”x18” replica banner for their lawn. (Note that banner orders may experience delays due to supply shortages from closures during the pandemic.)

If you can’t drive down Guymon’s Main Street this Veterans Day, take a moment to check out the military banners online at www.troopbanners.com/Guymon. You won’t be disappointed. OKL Article End