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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Kiess’ family looks at his Blue Star Banner that will hang on a light pole on West Jefferson Boulevard.

Local troops to get banner treatment

– A new city program will recognize service members who are deployed overseas.

Mayor Tom Henry announced the Blue Star Banner program Wednesday while flanked by representatives from the Air National Guard, the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and the Fort Wayne Area Blue Star Mothers.

“As a country, it is certainly imperative that we recognize, as often as possible, all of our military personnel who have been deployed overseas,” Henry said. “I believe, though, Fort Wayne should introduce its own version of recognition, loyalty and commitment.”

The Blue Star Banners will be placed on light poles along Jefferson and Washington boulevards from Swinney Park to Time Corners, with each one featuring an actively deployed service member. Any city residents or city employee actively deployed is eligible for a banner.

The first banner will feature Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Kiess, who works in the city’s Public Works department and is deployed on a humanitarian mission to the Dominican Republic. It is his fourth deployment.

Kiess’ wife, Gina, said she was honored to be invited to the announcement but didn’t realize her husband’s banner would be the first one displayed. She was joined by their daughter Elly, 9.

“I wish my husband were here so he could see it,” Gina Kiess said. “I think the initiative is very special.”

Henry said the banners will be displayed each April through November and will be given to the service member when he or she is home as a sign of appreciation.

“I’m pretty excited about giving them the banner when they get home,” he said.

If service members die while overseas, their banners will be replaced by Gold Star Banners and flown for an additional year, unless families ask they be taken down.

The banners will be paid for out of savings in the city budget, but donations are welcome. Applications are available on the city’s website at

Henry said he proudly stole the idea from the city of Lawrence, northeast of Indianapolis.