Who are Greencastle-Antrim's Hometown Heroes?

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Nearly 220 Hometown Hero banners line Greencastle streets, honoring the military service of local residents from World War I through the present.

The faces of men and women from Greencastle and Antrim Township provide a slide show as motorists drive by and as people walk the tree-lined streets.

Now some Greencastle-Antrim High School students are working to map out the locations of the banners and tell the stories of the honorees.

This is the start of a long-term project for the Blue Devil Scholars, the G-AHS chapter of the Rho Kappa, the national social studies honor society.

From left, McKenzie Shatzer, Allie Morgan, Ryland Zimmerman, Grace Shatzer, Peyton Barvinchack and Emma Bathgate are among the members of the Blue Devil Scholars, the Greencastle-Antrim High School chapter of Rho Kappa, the national social studies honor society, working the Hometown Hero banners project.

Rho Kappa at work

The G-A chapter of Rho Kappa was formed in 2019 under the leadership of social studies teachers Meagan Brockway and James Thomas.

It did not get off to a running start. The first induction was held on March 12, 2020, and the next day, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered schools to be shut down due to COVID-19.

After G-A schools reopened for 2020-21, they brainstormed things the Blue Devil Scholars could do within COVID-19 guidelines and still be involved in the community, Brockway said.

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The Blue Devil Scholars connected with the Hometown Hero banner program, which was launched in 2020 by Frank L. Carbaugh American Legion Post 373, Harry L. Zeigler VFW Post 6319 and the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier this spring on a virtual Wednesday, the Blue Devil Scholars went to the chamber office, cleaned the banners which had been stored over the winter and organized them by branches of the service for placement by Greencastle's public works department.

"I was very thankful when Mrs. Brockway and Mr. Thomas introduced this project, because military appreciation hits very close to home for me," said Taylor Appenzellar, president the the G-A Rho Kappa chapter, in an email. She noted several close family friends are currently in the military, and her boyfriend is heading to Air Force basic training this month.

"I coincidentally actually was in charge of helping to place the citizens of Greencastle who served in the Air Force on the poles around town," she said. "I wanted to do it for all of those men and women who served, are currently serving, and want to serve for our country’s freedom. I was so thankful for this opportunity and thankful for those who allowed me to do this for the military community in Greencastle."

Greencastle-Antrim High School social studies teachers James Thomas and Meagan Brockway are advisers for the Blue Devil Scholars as the students work to provide information on the Hometown Hero banners via Google Maps.

In addition to the Air Force, also represented on the banners are the Army, Army Air Corps, Army Corps of Engineers, Army Infantry, Army National Guard, Army Special Forces, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.

"I was specifically a part of the cleaning and organizing group, where we took all of the banners and wiped them down, then organized them by branch and wrote down all of the names," wrote McKenzie Shatzer, Rho Kappa board member. "My favorite part of that was seeing all of these different people and faces that are/were a part of our community that have not only served us, but served our country. It was also interesting to see names or faces that I recognized, and yet did not know that they served."

A Hometown Hero banner for Parker J. Brown, currently serving in the U.S. Army, can be found along East Baltimore Street in Greencastle.

It surprised her how large and heavy the banners are.

"I am looking forward to seeing the banners throughout town, as they help to create the hometown feel that I love about Greencastle," she said.

"I felt amazing helping the community and seeing how my work paid off in the end. I loved getting to see the pictures on the posters, and it was amazing to see how many people from our community have served for our country," wrote Emma Bathgate, a member of the honor society. "I’m very excited to see how happy these posters will make families and to know that my work will forever have an impact on our small town whether or not the posters are up or not."

Honoring the heroes

When the Hometown Hero project started last spring, 89 banners were placed around center square and along Baltimore and Washington streets.

This year, 218 banners went up, with additional locations on Carlisle, Washington, and Leitersburg streets as well as Ridge Avenue.

The banners around Center Square in Greencastle honor Hometown Heroes who were killed in action, including Harry R. Pensinger in World War II and Thomas R. Cook Jr. in Vietnam.

The banners circling Center Square represent service members from the community who were killed in action:

Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Bitner, U.S. Army Special Forces, Global War on Terror

Sgt. Frank L. Carbaugh, U.S. Army, World War I

Pvt. Winfield G. Carey, U.S. Army, World War I

Pfc. Thomas R. Cook Jr., U.S. Army, Vietnam

Pfc. Randy T. Kendle, U.S. Army, Vietnam

Pfc. William K. Mayhugh, U.S. Army, Korea

Pfc. Jack H. Miller, U.S. Army, 29th Infantry, Korea

Staff Sgt. Harry R. Pensinger, U.S. Army, World War II

Pvt. Junior Reese, U.S. Army, World War II

Pfc. Frederick P. Smith, U.S. Army, World War II

Pfc. Miles E. Wagner Jr., 2nd Infantry Division 38th infantry Regiment, Korea

Pfc. David Witmer, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam

Seaman Harry D. Zeigler, U.S. Navy, World War II

"The banners are a powerful representation of past and present servicemen and women in the Greencastle-Antrim community that have served our country," Greencastle Borough Manager Emilee Little wrote in her May report.

At its May 3 meeting, borough council accepted a $2,000 donation for the installation of the banners. This is the second year a couple, who asked to remain anonymous, paid for the deployment of the banners.

Information about ordering a Hometown Hero banner is available from the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, 717-597-4610 or info@greencastlepachamber.org

'History is eternal'

Getting the banners ready is just the first chapter for the Blue Devil Scholars, who will be mapping their locations for a virtual tour via Google maps. People eventually will be able to find a service member and click to see a mini-banner and learn more about them.

Some information is being gleaned from "Conococheague: History of the Greencastle-Antrim Community, 1736-1971," by the late William P. Conrad, Greencastle historian and school superintendent. Brockway said it is a dream to write the rest of the book after it stops in 1971.

"Conococheague: History of the Greencastle-Antrim Community, 1736-1971" by the late William P. Conrad, Greencastle historian and school superintendent, is being used as a source of information about some of the service members honored on the Hometown Hero banners.

Members of Rho Kappa also will be gathering information in the spirit of National Public Radio and StoryCorps. Brockway and James have a applied for a grant for microphones to record not only stories about veterans, but other recollections of Greencastle residents.

Their ideas include recording during events like Old Home Week, with topics such as "What Was Your Dad's Prom Like?" and "Greencastle in the 1960s," James explained. Ultimately this information, too, will be connected to Google maps.

"History is eternal and we'll build on this," Brockway said. "Ten years down the road someone can pull it up and learn about history."

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Winston Churchill

Another Blue Devils Scholar project is getting younger kids interested in history.

Original plans for in-person engagement flipped to e-learning with the pandemic.

They're putting together kits on Winston Churchill for third- and fourth-graders, complete with books about the one-time British prime minister along with video readings. The kits also include step-by-step instructions on how to draw Churchill as well as the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom.

"The kids really stepped up to make things work during COVID," Thomas said.

Next year, Egyptian hieroglyphics will be featured.

"We're history geeks, that's what we do," Brockway said.