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Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival honors veterans with downtown banners

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Veterans are being honored with banners in downtown Cedar Rapids as part of the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival. This is the first year for the Military Tribute Banner Program.

William Rowan served in the Navy for 8 years beginning in 1981. His five children surprised him for Christmas last year by letting him know his service would be honored with a banner in downtown Cedar Rapids in June.

“I was 18-years-old you know, that’s quite a few years ago,” Rowan said of the picture on his banner.

“This is the first time anyone’s seen my dad without a mustache,” his daughter Stephanie pointed out.

Rowan’s family and friends enjoyed downtown Cedar Rapids earlier this month by supporting local businesses and checking out the banners for the first time.

“Everybody clapped for me and everything else. I got my picture taken with my family with all my friends, it was just a very good day,” Rowan said.

“He was beaming from ear-to-ear when we were standing in front of the actual banner itself,” his daughter Jessica told KCRG-TV9.

“It means a lot because he’s worked hard his whole life and that was awesome that the kids did that for him,” Rowan’s wife Lori explained.

A total of 76 veterans can be seen on banners throughout downtown Cedar Rapids.

“I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it, it has been unbelievable,” said Karol Shepherd, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival.

The Freedom Festival started the program as a fundraiser this year, and a way to honor those who have served the country.

Rowan says, it feels good to have his service recognized.

“When I first got out of the Navy, there was, they didn’t respect anybody that did time in the service. So everything now as it’s happening, we’re getting honor for things that we should have been honored for many, many years ago,” he explained.

The banners will be on display through September. They’re sold out this year, but we are told this is only the beginning of a new tradition in Cedar Rapids.

“We’ve already got a waitlist of about 30 people, so definitely something we will continue for years for come,” Shepherd said.

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