In November 2010, Andy Durkee wrote a letter to the Rohnert Park City Manager. He requested the city consider adopting a Military Banner Program. The purpose for this program was to allow the community to honor and recognize individuals on active duty in the military. These members either resided, or have immediate family members who reside or work, in the City of Rohnert Park. Also, military members who have attended school in our local system are eligible for a banner.
It took a year, but in November 2011, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved a pilot program for ten banners to be installed. By January 2012, sufficient sponsorships to fund the pilot project. These initial funds came from the banner families and individual sponsorships. In March 2012, a “kick-off” event was held at the community center. The first 10 banners were displayed and the public was invited. In April, an update report was given to the Parks and Recreation Commission. The next step would be to present the program to the city council.
In April 2012, the first banners were installed. A year later, in May 2013, a second set of 13 banners were added. The program has continued every year thereafter with a total of 68 banners having been displayed at one time or another. When an individual is no longer on active duty, the banner is removed and presented to the individual or family with appropriate ceremony. Thirty-seven are currently installed in or around the Rohnert Park Expressway in Rohnert Park.
All five services of the U.S. Armed Forces are on display. They are Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. An annual presentation of new banners is now included in the city’s Veterans Day program each November. This year during that event, Durkee presented the city the two newest banners to be raised. One is already up and the other should be soon. They honor Joseph Aliotti and Lee Bunney.
Aliotti although born in San Diego, moved to Rohnert Park with his parents when he was just one year old. He graduated in 2019 from Credo High School where he played baseball and soccer. In his senior year, his baseball team won the NCS/CIF Championship. Aliotti was a member of Squadron 57 of the Civil Air Patrol throughout his high school years at Credo. So, it’s no surprise that he enlisted in the United States Air Force during his senior year. He is currently stationed in California working on Avionics Flight Systems.
Bunney graduated from Technology High School in 2009. She attended Sonoma State University and worked at Scandia Family Fun Center until 2012. She then joined the United States Navy in April of that year. By August 2012, she had earned her rate as an Engineman. Advancing from Fireman she is now a Second Class Petty Officer. She has completed two deployments with Coastal Riverine Squadron 2; one in the United Arab Emirates and another in Kuwait. Later she earned her small craft pin, qualifying as a coxswain while stationed with Coastal Riverine Squadron 10 in Portsmouth, VA. She is currently stationed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard working in the diesel shop.
Annually, Durkee presents an update on the City of Rohnert Park Military Banner Program to the city council. That update will likely be done during one of the December city council meetings. I want to thank Captain Andy Durkee, USCG (Ret) for his commitment to this program. During our interview of November 27, his passion was evident. He provided me the history and background of the program which is the basis of this article. Additional information and an application can be found on the website: www.starspangledbanners.org. For more information, Durkee, who is the RP Military Banner Program Coordinator, can be contacted at: (707) 584-5109 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city also deserves credit. They stepped up and made this program possible. Similar programs started in Windsor in 2013 followed by Cloverdale in 2015. Although unnamed, behind the scenes are a half dozen volunteers assisting Durkee. This Banner Program is supported with funding provided by local sponsors, both individuals and community organizations. Without all these folks working together, this program wouldn’t have happened.
The citizens of Rohnert Park can be proud of this program as it is one more defining feature of the “Friendly City.” So, congratulations to Bunney and Aliotti, and thank you for your service. Your banners now join the many men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces who proceeded you. We’re proud of them all.