Porterville celebrates addition of 128 military banners downtown

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The program is called a public expression of gratitude towards Porterville's enlisted men and women and its many veterans. (KFSN)

Army Veteran Lester Milton Wieland was a cook who delivered food to men on the front lines in the Korean War.

"He was a very quiet little man," said his daughter, Gwen Riley. "He loved to dance."

His children felt he should be honored for his service, so they applied for Porterville's Military Banner Program.

City Manager John Lollis describes the program as a public expression of gratitude towards Porterville's currently enlisted men and women and its many veterans, including those killed in action.

"It was reported by the United Press Service International in 1967 that based on per capita, Porterville's deaths in Vietnam were four times the national average," Lollis said. "This year, we are honoring four individuals form our community that were killed in action in Vietnam."

Those men include George Winkempleck, Pat Phillips, Pat Higgins, and Dennis Ellis.

The program started in 2016 with 36 banners.

Seventy-seven more went up last year, and this year, another 128 were installed.

Vietnam Veteran Cliff Poe now has a banner.

He says his time in the service kept him out of trouble.

"It turned me around," Poe said. "I was pretty rowdy when I was growing up you know. (I) didn't know what I was going to do with my life, and I just joined the Navy for four years."

Names of the new honorees were read during a patriotic ceremony Friday afternoon.

Monache High School's stage band was also on hand.

"This is pretty neat," said Gwen Riley. "It's very touching, very touching. I can't wait to see his banner."

Wieland's banner hangs near the corner of Main and Olive.

His family went to see it after the ceremony.

"He looks cute, him and his big ears," Riley said.

Wieland passed away a few years ago, but his families' memories of him live on, and the people of Porterville now know a little more about him, and the city's other hometown heroes.

LINK: More information on the Porterville Military Banner Program

The banners will be up through Veterans Day, and in January, the application process will be open again.
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