South Windsor 13-year-old continues to helm veteran banner undertaking – Hartford Courant

South Windsor — In 2020, Mihika Joshi helped create a project that added banners on light posts at South Windsor’s Nevers Park, and each banner honored one of the town’s veterans.

She was 11 years old at the time, but she spearheaded the effort (with help from the town’s Patriotic Commission and American Legion Post 133), raised funds, contacted sponsors and vendors, and helped design the banners. She also presented the project to the Town Council, which unanimously approved.

Now 13, Joshi is at it again, adding more banners and reaching out to more of the town’s veterans. Since the first year, 14 more veterans were added in 2021, bringing the total to 22 so far. The project has expanded to include veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as World War II.

She is looking to get information on more South Windsor veterans to be included in this year’s banners, which are slated to be put up on Memorial Day weekend, and will stay up through Veterans Day. The banners are then given to the veterans or their families.

“I’m compiling names and putting them together,” she said. “Later on, I’ll be giving the names to the vendor that we have for the banners.”

Joshi said the vendor making the banners is also a veteran and is using only materials made in the United States. She is also working on getting photos and information about the veterans.

Fundraising has been done via donations from the South Windsor community. She is approaching local businesses and getting their sponsorships again. She is again getting a great response.

She said she’s learned a great deal by getting in touch with veterans and their families, but hopes to do more in the future. She sees the banners whenever she passes by the park, and feels a sense of pride, but wants to form more of a connection.

“Every time I go by, I see the banners and I feel really proud of what we’ve done,” she said. “I haven’t gotten the chance to meet many of the veterans because of COVID. I’ve gotten to meet with a few of them, and it’s quite an experience to talk to them and hear them share their stories. There’s a lot to learn from them, and I really hope that through the mission of these banners that we can pass that along to other young people like me.”

Joshi was able to visit with WWII Navy veteran Marie Walsh on her 99th birthday, to show her banner and talk with her.

“She had so many stories to tell. She had so many experiences in World War II. She was telling me about how she made friends in the military and how she is still able to talk to them today,” Joshi said, adding that she was inspired by the female veteran.

Veterans from other towns, including Barkhamsted, have contacted Joshi about helping them start a similar banner program there, and inviting her to speak at a recent veterans dinner.

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“I was able to speak to some veterans and tell them about my project,” she said. “Some of them were members of the American Legion and the Lions Club. They were thinking about expanding it into northern Connecticut towns in the Barkhamsted area.”

Eventually, the goal is to have banners erected honoring every South Windsor veteran.

“I’m trying to get closer to that goal. I’m not sure if there are enough lamp posts to honor all of them,” she said. “The underlying mission is to inspire, and share the stories of these veterans who gave bravely, and sacrificed so much to protect our freedom and make sure our country is safe. I think that people, especially youth, to hear these stories.”

Future plans may include a website where people can watch videos or hear the veterans stories firsthand.

“After COVID’s over and things start opening up, I’d like to talk to more veterans, speak to them, and document their stories,” Joshi said.

Joshi is also working on a project to raise funds for the South Windsor Food and Fuel Bank. She spent 100 hours last summer helping FoodShare distribute food. She’s also planning an Earth Day project with details to be determined.

For more information, or to nominate a veteran that should be honored, call Patriotic Commission members Herb Asplund (860-644-0881) or Daria Plummer (860-432-8403), or visit this link: https://earthblogger.wixsite .com/vbp2021.

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