By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
The American Legion Riders will deliver a service banner to the sister of Ora Sharninghouse Jr. on Saturday.
In April, his remains were returned to his sister, Joan Stough, 73 years after he went missing in action during World War II.
Stough, who lives in Findlay, will receive a Gold Star banner which is typically given to loved ones of military members who have died while on active duty. The rectangular flag is white, bordered in red, with a gold star edged in blue in the center.
A similar banner, but with a blue star in the center, represents a family member who is serving in the Armed Forces.
“It means a lot to the families who want them,” said Terry Ward, director of the local Riders.
The group is affiliated with the Findlay American Legion, Ralph D. Cole Post 3. Riders must be a veteran or have a family member who was a veteran, and own a motorcycle.
Members of the local Riders, along with those representing other groups in the Great First District of Ohio — which includes Findlay — will deliver the banner to Stough.
“We might have five bikes. We may have 50,” said Ward, a former director of the district. “We’re going to invite a lot of those people down. And it just depends a lot on the weather, too.”
Findlay police officers will escort the Riders to Stough’s home on Cherry Lane at 1 p.m., where Mayor Lydia Mihalik is scheduled to say a few words.
Sharninghouse was aboard a torpedo bombing plane when it crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 1944. The 22-year-old McComb native, a torpedo gunner on the aircraft, was declared missing in action.
Stough learned last August that her brother’s remains had been found and were being returned home. A funeral was held for him in April, and his remains were laid to rest at Weaver Cemetery, beside his mother’s grave and among other family.
The caravan of Riders will then continue a short way out on Ohio 12 to deliver a Blue Star banner to 2C Midshipman Andrew Weiss and his parents. Weiss, who serves in the Navy, is home on leave.
Each will also receive a “challenge coin” from Ward. These coins are a mark of representation for military personnel, he said.
The Blue Star banner was started in 1917 by World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queissner of the Ohio 5th Infantry. Ward said Queissner had two sons serving and came up with this symbol to show the public that the family had members in the military.
Later, the Gold Star banner was added for those who have died in service for their country.
Ward said the banner tradition fell off during the Korean War and was completely forgotten during the Vietnam War. He said the West Unity, Ohio, Riders group revived the tradition a few years ago.
Although this is the first time for the Findlay group to organize a banner ride, Ward has participated with other groups in the district. He said it’s a very emotional event for both the family and the Riders.
“Everybody hears the bikes and you get a Gold Star delivered, and there’s not a dry eye anywhere,” he said.
The Riders date back to 1993 when two members of a Michigan American Legion post came up with the idea to start a motorcycle enthusiasts association within the organization. It later expanded to other posts in the state, then to a national level.
Findlay’s group was started in 2016 and has four members.
Known for their charitable work, Riders across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children’s hospitals, schools, veterans homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships.
“We would also like to give Gold Star banners to the men who died in Vietnam. I think there were 10 or 11 servicemen from Findlay here that died in the Vietnam War,” he said.
Family members can request a banner. The Sons of the American Legion will purchase the flags, and the Riders will deliver them. Ward is also commander of the local Sons group.
For more information, contact the American Legion at 419-422-0552.
Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf