The "hometown hero" banners hanging outside Tweed's this afternoon. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Two “hometown hero” banners honoring veterans went missing from an East Main Street lamp pole last week, but they’re now back in place in front of Tweed’s Restaurant.

Tweed’s owner Ed Tuccio said the banners — which honored U.S. Army World War II veteran Wesley Brown and U.S. Navy veteran Reginald G. Underwood Jr., who also served in the Riverhead Police Department for 34 years — were taken down by a friend at his request because they blocked the view of his restaurant and signs, which hurt his business, he said. He also said he wanted to decorate the pole for Halloween. 

“There’s so many empty poles and so many empty stores. Put them there,” Tuccio said in a phone interview Thursday.

“It’s no big deal,” he said, mentioning that he had served in the Army himself.

Tuccio said he had contacted the Business Improvement District Management Association and asked to have them moved to another pole before he had them taken down. He said he spoke with BIDMA president Steven Shauger. Shauger said the organization had not heard from Tuccio or anybody from Tweed’s.

The hometown hero banner project was launched in April to honor community members who are veterans or are currently serving in the U.S. armed forces. A collaboration between the BIDMA, the Wedel Sign Company and the town’s Veterans Advisory Committee, the project allows people to purchase a banner for display on a Main Street light pole at a cost of $225 apiece.

“The hometown hero banner project honors our veterans and we just want to make sure that they get the proper honor and respect that every veteran deserves,” said Councilman Ken Rothwell, the town board’s liaison to the Veterans Advisory Committee. “And so it was very disappointing to see them taken down.”

The banners were turned in to the Riverhead Police Department on Wednesday and an investigation into the incident was launched. 

Rothwell said the families that purchased the banners had been updated on the situation by the Veterans Advisory Committee. The person who took the banners down had been notified and told to not touch them anymore, Rothwell said. He declined to identify anyone involved with the incident, because it involves an open investigation. A final report of the incident was not yet available from police as of this afternoon.

Other banners, such as those advertising downtown events, have been displayed on the same pole in front of Tweed’s for a number of years, both Rothwell and Shauger said. Decorations for Halloween are put on poles that currently hold flower baskets and not the banners, Shauger said.

Keith Brown, son of World War II veteran Wesley Brown, said he noticed his father’s banner was missing last Wednesday when he drove past the spot. “I always look at it every time I pass,” he said.

Brown said he called Town Hall to inquire into the banner’s whereabouts, but said he has not had a call back.

“Wow,” he said today, when informed by a reporter of the incident. He said he was flabbergasted that someone would do something like that and happy to learn the banner was once again on display there.

“I wish I would have been riding by when he was taking it down,” Brown said.

Denise Civiletti contributed reporting.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.