A parade of hometown heroes symbolically stepped off Tuesday in Tamaqua and it's a procession that will only get bigger.

The first banner in a series of 'Hometown Heroes' was installed near Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters at 114 West Broad Street. Jack Steele, an employee of Tamaqua Borough, carefully attached the banner and it drew attention from the start.

"I'm very pleased with the response so far," said Linda Yulanavage, Chamber executive director.

The first banner depicts former U. S. Marine Andy Leibenguth, Iraqi war veteran who returned to Tamaqua to channel his hometown loyalty into a lifetime commitment of service to community.

Leibenguth is employed as a reporter in the TIMES NEWS Tamaqua Bureau.

The banner was sponsored by the Chamber.

Yulanavage said similar banners can be sponsored by anybody, even groups or organizations, and can honor any military person or group, or it can even be a generic salute to the military and patriotism.

"Any person of the military past or present can be honored. They don't need to be from the Tamaqua area," said Yulanavage, who fashioned the program after one she experienced through her involvement with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center.

So if you're particularly proud of grandmother's service in the Women's Army Corps, her image can hang from a banner in Tamaqua even if she lived in Tuscaloosa. There are no geographical restrictions.

"We are very proud of our veterans and our Hometown Hero Banner Program will bring that pride to the streets of downtown Tamaqua," said Yulanavage. "These banners will display the gratitude and pride of the entire community for the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom throughout the years by each and every one of our veterans."

A typical banner might include a photo of the veteran, their service information and the sponsor's name(s). The banner can honor veterans, living or deceased, active or inactive.

The banners are then affixed to existing Victorian lamp posts at locations located throughout the downtown. The banners are constructed of heavy duty, outdoor-weight vinyl and are slit to allow airflow to prevent wind damage.

In addition to honoring the veterans, the Chamber will make a $25 donation to Tamaqua American Legion Post 173 for each banner purchased.

The highly visible banners are expected to be admired and talked about at upcoming events such as the Tamaqua Memorial Day Parade and Tamaqua Summerfest on Father's Day.

Information on sponsoring a Hometown Hero banner is available by calling the Tamaqua Chamber office, Monday through Friday at (570) 668-1880. However, there is a cut-off date of May 1, said Yulanavage.