Hometown Heroes

As the Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program enters its fourth year, I am still in awe of all the harrowing stories of our heroes and what they have accomplished in their lives.

That’s what this program — which just received a new three-year sponsorship from AdventHealth DeLand — originally set out to do: Share the stories of brave men and women who fought for our freedom, returned home and have gone on to live, perhaps, rather normal lives.

They truly are our heroes.

This year, we added something new. I bent the rules, I guess you could say. Normally, we seek nominations of veterans to feature on our banners in Downtown DeLand from the community and family members. But what about those who don’t have a voice?

In partnership with DeLand Historic Trust Inc., we added some very deserving soldiers. These men would go off to war and never return. There’s Robert Tatum, who was killed in action in World War II; Malcolm Geoffrey Mole, a hospital corpsman who was killed in Vietnam while responding to aid others in his company; and Ceasar Bryant, who sacrificed himself for the rest of his platoon in Vietnam. We later learned Bryant has family here in DeLand; they were surprised and overjoyed to find out we had honored him.

We were able to patch together bits and pieces of information about these soldiers using published historical accounts. But it’s my hope that telling their story will inspire others who knew these heroes to contact us and share more of their story.

This year’s program also includes the first World War I entrant: Harold E. Gould, who was killed in combat 103 years ago in July.

I hope you enjoy reading the stories of these brave men and women that we will be sharing in this publication and on social media.