Downtown Farmington banners honor local war veterans

Long-time Farmington resident Jim Forbes, 93, still proudly remembers his time in the U.S. Army and now, his community knows something about it as well.

James Forbes banner
Jim Forbes holds the banner that honors his military service during World War II.

Forbes, his family, city staff, Mayor Sara Bowman, and members of American Legion Post #346 gathered Wednesday as a banner recognizing the World War II veteran went up near the corner of Grand River and Grove Street. It shows a black-and-white photo of Forbes, along with his name and rank.

“I was 18 years old,” Forbes said of the photo. “It was taken in front of a bombed out building … We took pictures every Sunday throughout the company.”

Gratified by the honor, Forbes said he enjoyed his time in the service. “I worked hard, but I enjoyed military life… I had six men under me, and they would listen to me. It was about getting the job done.”

James Forbes banner
Jim Forbes stands alongside his banner after it was raised during a Wednesday event. 

American Legion Post Commander Marya Davis read an account of Forbes’ service, which is also posted on the City of Farmington website. Drafted in 1945, he was originally sent to Officer Candidate School but due to educational requirements, re-enlisted and was sent to Fort Lewis in Washington.

Staff Sgt. (T/3) Forbes, a Technical Advisor, reported directly to the Ordinance Battalion Commander, who reported directly to Brigadier General Urban Niblo in Yokohama, Japan. Looking back, Forbes said, the Japanese people “had a beautiful way of life”.

Forbes’ unit salvaged, scrapped, and repaired non-amphibious large equipment, which was then shipped off for redistribution. His mechanical skills served him well in civilian life; he worked as an automobile mechanic, as service manager for an American Motors Jeep company, and as a Steam Engineer for Henry Ford Hospital.

Mayor Sara Bowman James Forbes
Mayor Sara Bowman congratulates Jim Forbes during the military banner event.

Retired at 65, Forbes has been active with the American Legion Post for 23 years, as a member of the color guard, custodian of the Colors (flags), and Sergeant at Arms. The post has been like a second family.

“There’s a lot of love,” he said. “They went through the same things I did.”

Forbes was married for 50 years to his late wife, Wilma. The couple lost a son, Jimmy. Children Gail, Beth, and Brian attended the Wednesday event. Beth said her dad shared a lot about his military experiences as she and her siblings were growing up.

“I am so proud of him,” she said. “He has been through a lot, and he is a strong man.”

Melissa Andrade, assistant to City Manager David Murphy, said the hope was to raise Forbes’ banner during the annual Memorial Day parade.

“The parade was canceled, and our printer closed (due to COVID-19),” she said. “I thought it would be good to get it up for Patriot Day (September 11), since we won’t have a ceremony.”

James Forbes Military Banner
Jim Forbes watches as Melissa Andrade and Sean O’Reilly straighten his military banner.

The city’s Military Banner Program launched after a Farmington Public Safety officer traveling in Sault Ste. Marie spotted banners in that city, and sent a photo to Commander Andrew Morche, a military veteran and reservist.

Veterans and/or their families can fill out a form on the city’s website to apply for the program. Banners designed by graphic artist Susan Dudzik and printed by JT Productions cost $225. After a year on display, veterans get to keep them.

Andrade said banners will be taken down to avoid damage during the winter and go back up in time for Memorial Day. Veterans’ biographies will remain on the city’s website. 

“We thought this would be a good way to honor the veterans who served,” she said. “Hopefully, someday we can do a walking tour.”

Bowman said she appreciates the work Morche and Andrade have put into the program, as well as the opportunity to gather with Forbes and his family, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no better way to honor our veterans,” she said. “One of the great things about Farmington is that we’re always looking out for our own.”

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