Hometown Heroes

In 2011 the Bel Air Downtown Alliance introduced the Hometown Heroes Banner Program to honor men and women from the Harford County area who have served or are currently serving our country in a branch of the military or first responder. Each unique banner includes the soldier or first responder’s picture, branch of service and era of service. The banners are 24″ wide and 44″ tall and include sponsor’s name, prominently displayed at the bottom.

The current Hometown Hero Banners will be displayed during the service holidays through the fall of 2025. The Bel Air Downtown Alliance will make the banners available for pick up at the end 2025. All banners not picked up within 30 days will be discarded.

We encourage you to visit Downtown Bel Air and to see the Heroes banners proudly displayed.

Applications for the next Hometown Hero Banner Program will open in the fall of 2024.

2023 Hometown Hero Banner Honorees

“SGM Johnson served 2 tours in Vietnam and 1 tour in Korea. He trained at APG and retired at APG. SGM Johnson served his country with pride and honor. He is a loving husband and father and enjoys spending time with his grandsons. He has traveled with his family to France, Germany, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Maryland. He currently resides with his family in Harford County.” ~ Patti Quinn

“Bob is a true hometown hero. He was raised in Bel Air and graduated from Bel Air High School in 1961. Soon after graduation, he joined the United States Navy and very proudly served his country in the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion on both active and reserve duty from 1962-1968.” ~MaryBeth Nance

“Sergeant Brook Schafer served in the infantry for the US Marine Corps from 2009-2015. Brook graduated with honors from boot camp at Paris Island. While at boot camp, Sgt. Schafer was recruited for the highly prestigious President Support Program. Sgt. Schafer was stationed at the 8th and I barracks before being stationed at Camp David for 3 years. Sgt. Schafer was then relocated to the White House Communications Agency located at Andrew’s Airforce Base, where he then served the President while traveling. Sgt. Schafer was meritoriously promoted to the rank of Sergeant.” ~Jessica Schafer

“Byron always knew he wanted to do something bigger than himself, so after high school graduation, he enlisted in the Army. Encouraged by his recruiter, he followed his dream and became a K9 MP. While family obligations cut his time shorter than he would have liked, he will always cherish his time and friendships developed serving his country.” ~Christina Shepard

“Charles enlisted to serve his country during World War II. He served aboard the USS Monrovia, a personnel carrier, in both the Atalantic and Pacific theaters. He retired from the Navy post war and returned to Harford County where he was a life long Bel Air resident.” ~Jeffrey Campbell

“David was born December 6, 1944 and died December 12, 2013. He served with Marines in Vietnam as their Corman. He was proud to be an American and came home to troubled times. He loved his family and dogs. David died from complications due to exposure to Agent Orange. He is missed everyday.” ~Kathleen Thornton

“Master Sergeant Donald J Benson enlisted in the United States Marine Corp in 1965 and served faithfully for 28 years. He served a tour in Vietnam and is a Purple Heart Recipient. After retiring in 1993, he stayed very active serving his country and community. MSgt. Benson is an active member of the Cpl. Pete Arnold detachment of the Marine Corp League serving as Detachment Commandant in 2010-2012 and was awarded Detachment Marine of the Year is 2007, Department Marine of the Year in 2017, and Honorary Department Commandant for the State of Maryland in 2022. He is a very active member of Jarrettsville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8672 and has served as both Junior and Senior Vice Commander. MSgt Benson has two daughters named Tammy and Laurie. Tammy is a Detective with the Harford County Sherriff’s Department. His grandson, Cameron, is a Deputy, and his other grandson, Kyle, is currently at the Academy. His other grandson, Tyler, served in the USMC from 2016-2022.” ~Rose Leftridge

“My father, Doug, was an Airborne paratrooper. When he was honorably discharged, he went on to start & operate 3 businesses, most notably Madonna Auto Sales & Service at the intersection of Norrisville Road & Jarrettsville Pike from the 1970s to the 2000s, then Farmington Nurseries until his retirement. He was a staple in the community who would always give to others an help anyone who needed it!” ~Doug Verzi

“Elizabeth is Maryland Air National Guard currently serving in Germany until October 2023. She joined during the pandemic after graduating North Harford High School, Class of 2020. She was dual enrolled at Harford Community College. She decided to join to give back and serve her state and county.” ~Julie Stamper

“SFC George W. Schwab currently serves as Platoon Sgt. for the 680th Combat Engineer Company (Infantry) out of Webster, New York. He is in his 19th year of service. SFC Schwab’s career began in 2001 following the attack on September 11th. By the end of October 2001, he had enlisted and began basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. In April of 2002 he successfully graduated and joined the ranks of the United States Army Infantry. SFC Schwab was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii. He deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) 2004-2005 with the 25th Infantry Division, 2ndBattalion 5th Infantry Regiment. During OEF he served as Operations Battle NCO, where he tracked over 1,000 missions and personally requested the deployment of more than 30 medivacs in an attempt to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. After completing his contract in October 2005, he had a break in service, exiting the active component as a SGT/E5. In 2011, after the realization that the life of a soldier was where he belonged, SFC Schwab rejoined the service as a Combat Engineer in the United States Army Reserves. It is with the Reserves that SFC Schwab has been promoted through the ranks. He is now awaiting his next promotion to Master Sergeant and is hoping to be in charge of his own company soon. SFC Schwab resides in Bel Air, Maryland with his wife, Kate; four children, Erica (6), Meghan (5), Ryan (3), and Anna (2); and dog Molly. In addition to serving in the Army Reserves, he also works for the United States Treasury Department.” ~Kate Schwab

“George Washington Tittle was lovingly known as “Chief” to his family and friends. Mr. Tittle was a native Harford-Countian, born in Jarrettsville, MD. He graduated from Central Consolidated High School and Echols College of Mortuary Science. He served in the U.S. Army as part of the 101st Airborne, nicknamed The Screaming Eagles. Mr. Tittle established Tittle’s Funeral Home in Bel Air, MD in 1965. He also enjoyed a long career as an employment counselor in the Department of Human Resources until he retired in 1988. He then worked as superintendent of the Crownsville Veterans Cemetery from 1988 to 1992. A man of many talents, Mr. Tittle built his home in Jarrettsville where he enjoyed trap shooting, motorcycle riding, and golf. Mr. Tittle had three brothers and three sisters. He was married for 46 years to Jeanette Tittle before passing away in 2002. They have five children and four grandchildren.” ~Lisa Tittle

“Harry served in the US Navy from 1942 to 1946. He was a coxswain and was originally stationed in Bainbridge, Maryland before shipping out to the waters of Africa, England, France, and Normandy before returning to the USA at the end of the war.” ~Lonnie Wiskman

“My grandfather served in World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. He proudly served his country for 32 years. He was in the chemical core in Army. My mom had the pleasure of having Lt. Col. James P. LaCroix, Jr. as her dad for 66 years. Jim was know by many to be the kindest, smartest, and the wisest man that ever lived. Never a negative thought, always positive. If you knew Jim, you had the gift of a lifetime. He made the Army his career for 32 years, and along the way, he married Martha Jane Daniels. Together they had 4 children, a love story that they make movies about. Dad was lucky to have lived independently for 100 years in good health.” ~Michelle Kruba

“James M. ‘Ace’ Ryan, Jr. was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II. He served in the 8th Air Force, 487th Bomb Group where he was a flight navigator on B17 Bombers. He was a member of the American Legion in Bel Air, the Fallston VFW, and the Maryland School Bus Contractors Association. He was Vice President of Heer Brothers Inc. in Baltimore where he worked for 35 years, and was the owner and operator, for 40 years, of Ryan Transportation, Inc. where he transported school children for Harford County Public Schools. He enjoyed being with his family camping, crabbing, and riding his three wheeler, which he still did until his death at the age of 92. ‘Ace’ always proudly wore his ‘WWII Veteran’ ballcap and was always touched when others recognized and appreciated his service, and his family is delighted to sponsor this banner so that others can remember his devotion to our nation.” ~Kasey Chisholm

“Jason is a disabled Army veteran who now supports homeless veterans throughout the state of Maryland by helping them apply for eviction prevention and voucher programs.” ~Lauren Neubauer

“CMSgt. Jeffrey S. Morse proudly served his country – locally, stateside and globally – for 34 years. He enlisted right after graduating from Bel Air High School in 1987. He returned home briefly upon concluding his technical training to marry his high school sweetheart, Stacy, to whom he is still married to and will be celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary in 2023. His enlistment proudly spanned 7 Presidents and worked hard to move up the enlisted USAF ranks from Airman Basic (E-1) to Chief Master Sergeant (E-9). MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida started his military duty location on a full-time duty base from 1988-2000; then from 2000 to present (retirement and post retirement), he was stationed at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River. He officially retired November 1, 2021 but transitioned immediately thereafter into a DOD position at the same base the following day so that he could continue to serve his country, state, and community. Our family was a Harford County Foster family for 16 years and are blessed to have adopted 9 of our 10 children from the foster care program of Harford County. We are truly blessed to have such a family leader and mentor within our family fold and our community for our children, grandchildren, and neighbors to learn from each and every day.” ~Stacy Morse

“Electronics Technician (ET) First Class, Submarine Service (E-6) John Verbillis served in the Navy from June 1975 through April 1986. During this period, he served in several electronics technician and nuclear power positions culminating aboard the USS Andrew Jackson, SSBN-619 (Blue Crew), a Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine home ported in New London, CT and Holy Loch, Scotland. He served as Leading Petty Officer of the the Blue Crew Reactor Controls division, responsible for safe operation of the nuclear reactor and maintenance of Instrumentation and Control Equipment. John participated in two Deterrent Patrols in International Waters.” ~Dave Guzewich

MSgt Joshua JP Erhard (ret) started his 20-year Air Force career in 1999, shortly after High School, completing Basic Training and Technical School where he was offered a new career course of flying on the RC-135 series of aircraft as an Airborne Systems Engineer. This opportunity took him to Offutt AFB, Nebraska where he would instruct, evaluate, and deploy often to Southwest Asia, in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, as well as the Pacific, European, and South American theaters. Next, JP changed course again, moving to Las Vegas to become a Sensor Operator on MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft at Creech AFB where he drove the system payload, instructed, evaluated, and directly supported ongoing engagements in support of the Global War on Terror. Finally, MSgt Erhard made his way to southern Maryland as a part of SAMFOX, flying as an instructor Communication Systems Operator for the DV Airlift mission at Andrews AFB. This position took him around the world in support of the highest leadership echelons of the US government and military. During his career, his distinguished actions earned many awards including multiple iterations of the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal.

“Justin was a very determined person who loved his life, family, friends, and girlfriend. He was a handsome young man with a great personality, and he loved to smile! Justin was very determined; if he wanted to do something, he made it happen! Justin loved to play sports. He played youth football for the Bel Air Terps and even played at M&T stadium on our very own Ravens field to win a State Championship! Justin started playing recreation baseball and then carried on with travel baseball with the Emmorton Eagles and the Harford Sox. He was a pitcher, short stop, and third baseman. Justin also got the opportunity to play in tournaments at Cooperstown twice in his baseball career. Justin then started playing baseball for Harford Technical High School where he continued being a solid pitcher and exceptional third baseman. When Justin was 12 years old, he expressed to his family that he was going to join the Marine Corps after high school and was determined to go into Infantry School to become an Infantry Marine. As soon as he was eligible, at the age of 15, he joined the local early entry program for the Marines so he could prepare himself for boot camp. Before he graduated high school, we were asked to sign the papers because he was only 17.  It was probably one of the hardest things at that time we had faced, but it was what he wanted to do and he felt very strongly about it at a young age, so we signed. Justin went off to boot camp, graduated, and then went to Infantry school. Afterwards, Justin then went to his permanent duty station which was in North Carolina. Justin accomplished so much during his time in the Corps, which he had a love-hate relationship with, as most Marines will attest to. Justin was able to go on deployment and see the world as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, which always lead to him joking that he didn’t join the Marine Corps to be on a ship. But, he experienced so much that many will never experience in their lifetime, and he loved it. Sadly, when Justin returned from deployment, he was diagnosed with Metastatic Ewing Sarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer. Justin was treated at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland and was attached to the Wounded Warrior unit there. In April 2021, Justin lost his 2-year battle with cancer at his home at the age of 23. Justin had one of the most honoring services we have ever seen in Bel Air. Justin was loved and respected by many, and he made such a large impact on his friends, family, and community that his memory will live on forever. He will always be remembered as our Hometown Hero!” ~David Nowakowski

“Lauren began her journey in the Navy after graduating from Bel Air High School in 2020. She started bootcamp in Aug 2020. Immediately after bootcamp, she went to San Antonio to begin her tech school. She graduated as a Hospital Corpsman and then stayed for her next school for her specialty of Behavior Health Technician. Having graduated top in her class, she was awarded with her first choice for her first duty station. She arrived at Camp Pendleton in November of 2021. She was recognized as Blue Jacket (sailor) of the Quarter and then again as the Blue Jacket of the Year. After these awards, she was meritoriously promoted and is now a Petty Officer. We are super proud of her accomplishments!” ~Lisa Winn

“My husband is a retired US Army Colonel with 33 years of service. He has held multiple Command and Primary Staff positions in his career. He served in Bosnia and combat operations in Iraq.” ~Melissa Appleby

“Robert Capece joined the Navy before graduation in May 1945. He served stateside in Pensacola, FL. He eagerly enlisted to serve and protect the country that he loved so dearly. We are forever grateful for his service to our great nation.” ~Adam Capece

“Shane followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the military at the young age of 17. This was soon after 9/11 when units were mobilized in support of combat operations in Iraq. Shane had 4 Army combat tours, deploying twice to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar, where he worked as a generator mechanic (MOS 91D). He quickly ranked up to E5 (P) and worked as the shop foreman in his motor pool. Because of his combat experience, Shane was given a Team Leader position in which he participated in various gun truck escorts where he drove down the deadliest road in Iraq (Route Irish, a.k.a RPG Alley). On his second deployment to Iraq, Shane put over 80,000 miles on his HMMWV.

After 13 years of combat, Shane ETSd and has been living in Bel Air with his wife (Heather), two boys (Cameron and Logan), and dog (Atlas). His courage and selflessness is what made him a great soldier and makes him an even better husband and father. We love you Shane. Thank you for all that you do!” ~Heather Willis

“Jakob Ferrell is a graduate of C Milton Wright High School (2017), and from the day he could talk he knew he was going to serve his country. Sergeant Ferrell entered basic training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri in January 2018 for the military police program. Straight out of basic training, Sgt Ferrell served at the DMZ at the border of North and South Korea for over a year. From there, he deployed directly to Germany and duding the Covid crisis, he was only able to return on to the United States once in four years. Sergeant Ferrell is finally returning to his hometown December 2022 and brings with him a fiancé and a new two year term with the Army. Sergeant Ferrell has enlisted another two years and applied and has been accepted for to become Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sergeant Ferrell has decided after this term he would like to continue serving his community in law enforcement, whether it be in the local or government sectors. Sergeant Ferrell is a true hometown hero who loves his community, his country, and his family.” ~Kriste Ferell

Thurman Bay Ellis from Jarrettsville, Maryland served with distinction in WWII. A Private
First Class in the United States Army he was inducted into the service in February 1943 and
received his basic training at Camp McCain, Mississippi. He was assigned to the US Army
Rangers Company C 1 st Ranger Battalion which was part of a composite force of the 6615th Ranger Force (Provisional) with the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Ranger Battalions, 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, commanded by Colonel William O. Darby. These soldiers, often referred to as Darby’s Rangers, participated in the invasion of Italy.

Ellis returned after the war to his Jarrettsville home and to his job at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Prior to his enlistment Ellis worked at the Edgewood Arsenal. He retired in 1977. He had served his community proudly as a member of the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company from 1955 until is passing on Nov 30, 2010. He lived by the Ranger motto – Rangers Lead the War

“Timothy joined the military during the Vietnam War. He was born and raised in Bel Air, MD.” ~Julie Stamper

“Wayne enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1990 and began his time in the service at Bootcamp in Parris Island, SC. Soon after, he went to North Carolina for Marine Combat Training and then to 29 Palms, California for radio operator school. He was first stationed in Okinawa, Japan and was deployed to Kuwait during Desert Storm as part of an artillery unit. He was later stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, where he was then deployed to Somalia. Wayne also served on a Mediterranean Float where he carried out humanitarian missions, and also spent time in Haiti during its transition of power. After his service, Wayne returned to Camp Lejeune and was honorably discharged. Today he works in the private sector and lives with his family in Harford County.” ~Cindy Howes