A couple weeks ago, we had the privilege of getting to speak with Matthew Wieczhalek-Seiler, owner and founder of Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners, in Concord NH.
Matthew shared an inspiring story with us. He started Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners on September 11, 2018 and has grown the movement to placing his banners in 9 towns across New Hampshire.
Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners is a program designed to honor and commemorate active duty service members and veterans from New Hampshire in their hometowns by raising custom high-quality banners in their towns and cities.
It is important to recognize the effort and meticulous research and respect that Matthew and Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners puts into each banner.
Matthew tells us, “I want to accurately describe the person as possible. My entire immediate family served.”
Matthew, now known fondly as “The Banner Guy,” was introduced to the program after the passing of his active duty brother. He tells us that while in Attica, NY – he was leaving an auto parts store with his father, and noticed a public works banner raised raised on a utility pole. He was inspired to see that a local veteran was being publicly honored and displayed. It got him to do research on how programs like there are arranged.
Matthew says on his website, “In the late winter of February, 2018, I applied for my brother’s banner in the town he attended school in, Attica N.Y. Just previous to Memorial day I was at my father’s home and, notified by the village when and, where my brother’s banner would be put up. It was a moving moment for my family. This is why we exist, to give “A Tribute With Honor” to friends and family of those who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Military.”
Now, Matthew is helping families across the state honor the veterans in their family with their own banners in New Hampshire. But this didn’t happen overnight.
He says he used the inheritance from his brother’s passing as his initial seed money to get started. Next, he said filing a non-profit organization in New Hampshire is not easy. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting approved. At the same time, he was researching local vendors to help him make sure that the photography and quality were top-priority in creating these banners.
For starters, photographs of veterans can be limited and difficult to acquire. It is also important to Matthew that their service and medals be accurate, creating additional challenges. Going from a small wallet-size photo, to a full-size banner, can reduce quality if not restored properly.
But fortunately, Matthew works with a couple local experts that take the same degree of care in their work. His photography restorationist, Christos Dede, helps make sure that the photos are able to be used in print. And Ray Lindquist, his printer, provides all the means and materials to deliver the final result to be raised for public admiration.
Matthew says, “I don’t do this for profit. It’s about promoting a good thing. I would like to do more with vinyl. We already do decals, our printer did some in the beginning and they have been really good to us.”
It is immensely important that medals are properly displayed as well. Many of the banners he has created are for Gold Star and Purple Heart veterans. Each banner is one of a kind, and often research has to be done to make sure it is accurate.
Currently, Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners has been approved in 11 towns in NH, and is hanging banners in 9. Matthew says he would like to be raising banners for families in 15 towns by the end of this year. But, he says each town has their own set of rules and guidelines for banner approval.
And Matthew always goes the extra mile when taking care of his clients.
He says, “I put the same care and honor into these banners as I would while handling the American Flag. I store them safely and respectfully in the winter, make sure they never touch the ground. And the banners are usually raised for 3 years, after that time, it is then returned to the family.”
Amazingly, Matthew is able to offer his banners for $200 with a 3-year warranty. And the warranty covers just about any wear during that time for a complete replacement.
Since starting Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners, Matthew has heard some incredible stories of heroism from veteran families and their heartfelt appreciation for his work.
He tells us about Sergeant Daniel R. Gionet, from Pelham, NH, a brave Combat Medic that died of injuries while in combat. According to Run for the Fallen NH, “Dan and a comrade from his unit, died of injuries sustained while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near their M1A2 tank during combat operations. After the bomb shattered the tank he was riding in, Dan tended to the wounded around him, ignoring his serious injuries. When a medic unit finally arrived, he made his last decision. Dan said, “Don’t deal with me. Go help the lieutenant. He’s in greater danger than me.””
Matthew says that has heard many powerful stories of veterans from New Hampshire from their families, and he puts his heart into every banner he creates. For some towns that he has yet to get approval from, he has developed a yard post that families can raise their banners at home if they wish.
He says he moved to New Hampshire in 1986, and has stayed since. Prior to starting Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners, Matthew worked as a Historical Restorationist, giving him significant experience in working with antiques and items of historical value. Now, he is retired and lives with his wife, who is a paralegal.
Matthew is has become close with many local veterans groups in New Hampshire. He tells us that he was recently at the Newport American Legion Post 25, giving a presentation on the service he provides. Additionally, Rolling Thunder NH Chapter 2 has requested banners from him.
Another important organization to Matthew is the Gold Star Ride Foundation. This is a another group dedicated to honoring fallen service members, meeting with friends and families of veterans to fulfill wishes.
And, Matthew says he does not do it alone, he has many volunteers that help him get the job done and the word out.
“We have help all over New Hampshire. Getting set up, we created our own website, our logo, Facebook Page and Facebook Group. At events we give out brochures. And in New Hampshire, word-of-mouth and referrals are so important. We got listed on the Campton NH town website, which has been a great source of requests for us.”
Matthew says he has received many requests of police officers, firefighters, civil servants, and nurses, which he would also like to be able to provide banners for next. And especially in such strange times during a Coronavirus pandemic, this would be a way to show appreciation for these individuals putting their own safety aside for their communities.
Matthew tells us, “For me, it’s A Tribute With Honor. I take that very seriously. This is our motto: A tip of my hat to my brother. “
And we can see why. It was remarkable to speak with Matthew and hear his experience in starting such a community-first program. We hope Matthew is able to continue to get approval from local towns and cities to provide his service to veterans families around New Hampshire.
You can learn more about Concord For Hometown Heroes Banners on their website here: https://www.concordforhometownheroesbanners.com/
You can also visit them on their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/ConcordHometownHeroes/