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      As we celebrate America’s birthday on the Fourth of July, take a look up at the light poles as you drive
along China Lake Boulevard. Those banners honoring military personnel are the brainchild of Jerry Taylor.
      He and his team of volunteers have been running the Military Banner Program on a donations-only basis
for over a year.
      “We’re very thankful to be able to honor those who are serving us all by keeping this country free,” said
Taylor. Proud of Ridgecrest’s patriotism, he notes that every banner is sponsored by someone who came
forward to honor their loved one in the military service.
      “The majority of the honorees grew up here,” said Taylor. “Some have parents or grandparents here. They
all have some kind of tie to Ridgecrest.”
      The only other requirement is that the honoree must be on active duty in some branch of the U. S. Armed
Forces — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard. Anyone wishing to apply for a banner can go first to
the website at RCMBP.com for information. Then they can go to the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce office,
located at 128 E. California Ave,, Suite B (open Monday-Thursday) and get an application.
      The suggested donation of $150 per banner is turned in at the chamber, along with the completed
application. Donations for this program are all handled through the Nexus Foundation, a local nonprofit
organization. The banners are printed at Factory Graphx, located at 137 Panamint St., and then installed by
volunteer Terry May from Mediacom.
      “Mike at Factory Graphx does the banner printing for gratis, and Jan Bennett of Nexus does the
bookkeeping. I never touch the money,” said Taylor. “And a big shout-out to Terry May — Mediacom kindly
allows him to use their equipment to mount the banners on the light poles in his spare time. I’m really
appreciative — he’s been so helpful.”
      Taylor said he’s lost count of how many banners are up now. He estimates it’s more than 50, possibly as
many as 60. Now that he’s filled up the light poles on China Lake Boulevard, Taylor is starting on Inyokern
Road.
      “Soon some lucky honorees will get their banners installed on traffic light poles. I just got approval from
the city of Ridgecrest to put banners on the traffic poles from California Avenue on south,” said Taylor.
      Among the charter sponsors of this program are Jewelry To Go, Cosner-Neipp Corporation, the Veterans
of Foreign Wars and their Women’s Auxiliary. “Southern California Edison was extremely generous, and gave
us a $2,000 donation,” said Taylor. “Also, Peggy Breeden from the Swap Sheet gave us a large donation.
McDonald’s and other businesses have contributed, too. Thank you so much to all the individual citizens who
have made donations, and to our volunteers.”
      One of the challenges for banners in Ridgecrest is the wind factor. “There have been times when Terry
and I have been ‘blown out’ by the wind and had to come back and try again another day. We do this when we’
re available, and we all have day jobs. Sometimes we can’t get the banners put up as promptly as we’d like. I
want to thank everyone for their patience,” said Taylor. “We’re working to get several recent applicants’
banners up by July 4, when the honorees will be home, so they can see them.”
          The first batch of banners to go up was on poles located from Bank of American south to Motel 6, and
included eight banners. Since then, Taylor has switched to banners from a different manufacturer. The current
supplier makes the banners out of heavier material, so they’re less likely to tear or the stitching come undone.
Wind not only shreds the material, it also causes failures in the bands holding the banner to the pole.
      “When one of the original banners tears, we respectfully get it down and put up a new one for that
honoree. No one has to pay to have them replaced. When an old banner wears out, we’ll put up a new banner
for someone else. It won’t be up there forever. When the honoree gets out of the service, we take their banner
down and give it to their parents,” said Taylor.
      He had seen similar banners in other places, but hadn’t thought about doing a program locally until his
co-worker, Jackie Walters, saw a story about banners in another city and asked, “Why don’t we have this
here?”
      That’s when the proverbial light bulb over Taylor’s head went off. “I was looking for something very positive
to work on,” he said. “Honoring our active duty service personnel sounded great. I did some research, and
most of the other cities doing this are in Southern California.” After checking out other programs on the Web,
he decided Rancho Cucamonga’s version of the banners looked the nicest, and based his design on that.
      “We’re thankful to the generosity of so many in this community,” said Taylor. “If you can’t afford the $150,
just put in the basket what you can. I’m so thankful to Mike from Factory Graphx and his wife Michelle, and all
our sponsors and donors, and Heather and Nathan at the Chamber and Terry May and Mediacom.
      “The Nexus Foundation is a 501(C) corporation, and anything you donate is completely tax deductible.  We
had six more applications this week alone.”
( see picture below )
Ridgecrest salutes active duty
July 4, 2012
July 4, 2012
By LINDA SAHOLT
News Review Correspondent
Banners wave along China Lake Boulevard, as seen from the corner of China Lake and Ridgecrest
boulevards. Each banner honors an active-duty military service person with ties to Ridgecrest.
Photos by Laura Austin
( click on picture for larger version )