By William Kates
The Associated Press, Camillus, N.Y.
(AP) - With U.S. troops in combat in Afghanistan, the American Legion is bringing back the blue star banners that parents once hung on their front doors and windows to signify a child gone to war.
The banner, bearing a single blue star in a field of white trimmed in red, was a badge of honor during World War I and World War II. And supporters say bringing it back will further unite a nation resolved to battle terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It not only is a sign of support, but it is important because it shows that the tentacles of terrorism reach to virtually every neighborhood in America," said Joe March, a spokesman at Legion headquarters in Indianapolis.
"In the past, when Johnny went marching off to war, half the town would come out to see him off. Today, people may not realize that someone's son or daughter down the block is serving in the military."
Ed Hyde has ordered 10 banners for relatives in Camillus, five miles west of Syracuse. His son, James, is aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in support of the war against terrorism.
"It's just a way of doing a little something to show our support, to let my son, and everyone else putting themselves at risk for our country, know that we care," Hyde said.
An Army captain with two sons serving overseas during World War I first proposed the blue star service banner, which was patented in 1917, March said.
The stars were rarely used after World War II, with patriotism more muted during fighting in Korea and Vietnam. The American Legion tried to revive the banners during the Gulf War but the conflict "was over before we could really get started," March said.
On Sept. 11, the Legion's National Commander, Richard J. Santos, was waiting to testify to Congress' joint committee on veteran affairs when the terrorist attacks hit New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Knowing we were going to be a nation at war, he wanted to immediately activate the blue star banner campaign," March said. Since then, the Legion has distributed 14,000 banners, and thousands more have been ordered.
On the Web: American Legion: http://www.legion.org/