Jenalea Randall struggled to hold back tears Friday as she spoke about her late husband, Army National Guard Lt. Col. Anthony Randall, one of 24 Topeka service members honored with Hometown Heroes banners in downtown Topeka.
The banners, featuring names and faces of Topeka veterans, will grace lamp posts along S. Kansas Avenue through Veterans Day and were unveiled during a short ceremony at Westar Energy.
Randall called them a “tribute to the courage, strength, commitment and faith” of military members.
Anthony Randall served in Iraq and had a long career with the Kansas Army National Guard, she said. He died of brain cancer in 2014.
“Simply choosing to join the Army showed me Tony had an extraordinary amount of courage,” she said as she talked about her husband’s career, which included disaster-relief deployments. “And finally, when he learned he had brain cancer and fought it like a warrior.”
The Topeka-based Military Veteran Project led the project, which saw nearly 70 nominations, founder Melissa Jarboe said. Next year, the banner program likely will feature 40 people and expand to include service members from outside the city limits. Banners may also adorn poles on the Washburn University campus and along S.W. Wanamaker Road, Jarboe said.
“Our veterans are so humble,” she said. “We often have no idea about our silent leaders. (The banners) let their families tell their stories.”
Vince LaRocca’s banner features a photo of him from his time in U.S. Air Force. He retired in 2000 after a career that sent him across the world from bases in the U.S. to posts in South Korea, England and the Netherlands repairing fighter jets.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” he said while looking at the banner. “But I’m proud of my service and proud to call this my hometown.”
The 24-by-72-inch banners will be on display from Monday until Nov. 11 in the blocks between S.W. 6th and 10th Avenues. Each bears a photo, name, rank and branch of service, as well as a color-coded star. Gold stars indicate those who died in the line of duty, while blue stars represent veterans and active-service members.
“Aren’t they moving?” Mayor Larry Wolgast said as he walked around the display.