UPPER DARBY — After Brookhaven, Upland and Haverford created their own hometown heroes banners program to recognize veterans and active duty serviceman, Upper Darby has joined the trend.

Upper Darby Historic Commission member Nicholas Hoyt unveiled the township’s inaugural two banners Friday morning to recognize servicemen who died in armed conflict during the Vietnam War: Drexel Hill natives U.S Army 1st Lt. Donald Mancill and U.S. Army Capt. Michael Kerl.

Kerl was killed in action on Feb. 6, 1971 when his helicopter went down in South Vietnam at the age of 24. Mancill sustained injuries from hostile fire, but returned home from conflict and died from his injuries on Sept. 6, 1969, exactly 50 years ago from Friday’s ceremony.

Both men were students of Garrettford Elementary School and their banners will hang on the utility poles outside the school on Garrett Road.

“We tend to have a myopic perspective when discussing our military heroes,” said Hoyt. “The ones who are remembered the most are high-ranking officials or they were celebrities. However, it is extremely important to remember our hometown heroes, especially those who were never able to come home.”

Hoyt started the project last year and worked with the Garrettford Home and School Association as a way to do more for veterans. Annually, the school plants flags on the front lawn for Veterans Day. Kerl and Mancill were the first to be honored because they lived the closest to the school. Hoyt’s 11th-grade history teacher Dave Tatum helped to research vets who went through the Upper Darby schools and discovered the inaugural pair.

Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie said the program provides an overall sense of community and the qualities of being a good citizen learned within the school halls.

“Here we are many years later and I think it’s important for the families to understand that the community thanks you for your service,” said Micozzie to the Kerl family, which was in attendance. “As we look forward, there’s a lot more (veterans). We’re going to continue this program.”

Kevin Kerl, brother to Michael, said he didn’t even want to attend Friday’s ceremony, but he changed his mind thinking of the public support that would be given to his brother.

“It occurred to me that if people I don’t even know who I’ve never seen are willing to take a brief moment … to show love and respect to both of these men when you don’t know them, how could I stay home?” asked Kevin Kerl. “When you go home I want you to give yourself a hug for doing this. I’m honored to be here.”

Hoyt wants to see the program expand to include all veterans and to centralize placement of their banners to major thoroughfares in the township (Garrett Road, Burmont Road, Lansdowne Avenue, etc.) and hopes to model the program Haverford’s.

For more information contact Hoyt at nicholasjmhoyt@gmail.com.

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