Police officer's inclusion in 'hometown heroes' banners causes rift

Police officer's inclusion in 'hometown heroes' banners causes rift

Dozens of community members in Vandergrift are frustrated about a “hometown hero” banner that might have to come down.

Nearly every council member voted to take the banner down because it’s not a military banner like the others in town. Instead, the banner is in memory of Vandergrift police Officer Robert Kirkland, who passed away several months ago.

"He was getting surgery Tuesday to get rid of an infection and he was gone by Friday," said his wife, Vicki Kirkland.

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Firefighter Ashleigh Hannigan started a "Hometown Heroes" banner program in 2016 to honor members of the military from the borough. She said she wanted to honor Kirkland alongside them.

"My husband and I purchased the banner for her because she, as a widow, should not have to be burdened with spending the money on a banner," Hannigan said.

However, she said she was blindsided by a decision by the borough council.

"Council disapproved of the banner and that I needed to take it down," she said. "They are claiming that he is not a veteran."

Hannigan, Vicki Kirkland and others are now fighting to keep Officer Kirkland's banner displayed.

"It’s not hurting anybody. I feel like people just think it’s a banner," Vicki Kirkland said. "They forget there's a grieving family behind that banner.

"My boys are really proud of him of being a police officer. Now the banner is all they have left."