Piqua teen honors veterans in Long Beach community

LONG BEACH — A Piqua High School student spent her summer at Lake Erie finalizing a project over a year in the making.

Haily Tyson, who is a junior at Piqua High School and takes classes at Edison State Community College, often spends her summers at her family’s summer home in Long Beach, located on the south shore of Lake Erie between Toledo and Port Clinton. Last year, she and her family had extra veterans banners that honored her father, Craig Tyson, who served in the Army, and her brother, Joseph Everett, who served in the Navy. They had taken the banners with them on their vacation and ended up hanging them on their shed in their community—something that attracted the attention of many of their neighbors.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘I want one of those,’ and we kind of explained how we got them, and then there was a whole bunch of people on our deck, and somebody said, ‘Well, it can’t be that hard to figure out,’” Tyson said.

That inspired Tyson to take the initiative. She started by calling companies that would print the banners and got an idea for the information she would need in order to get banners honoring veterans in her beach community. In December of 2020, she sent out emails to members of the Long Beach community asking who wanted banners so she could get a count; the response was overwhelming at the time. In April, she had a cost estimate and visual examples of what they would look like — Tyson said there was hardly any interest at that point.

“We were pretty sad about that—we did get 13 the first time, and we did get those hung up. I had to go around and get everybody’s photo, their information, collect their money, and then I had to work with the company,” Tyson said.

The most challenging part of the project, for Tyson, was getting all the information together, getting it to the company, and then relaying it to everyone in her community who wanted a banner to make sure all the information was correct. Tyson recalls driving around her community in Long Beach, phone and laptop in hand, and stopping at each residence to show the final drafts of the banners and make sure everything was spelled correctly, the information was correct, and that it matched the pictures given to her.

“I wrote down any mistakes I had made, anything they wanted changed, anything the company had gotten wrong, so that was probably the most difficult,” Tyson said.

For Tyson, the most rewarding part of the project was when she delivered banners to Marvin Gillespie, who she said is in his 80s and did not know that he was getting a banner. The surprise of it brought him to tears, which surprised Tyson. When she explained the project and how he got the banner, she said he was excited.

“At our community’s annual meeting, he stood up and said, ‘This is such an amazing thing. I think it’s the best thing that anyone has ever done for this community,’” Tyson said.

In addition to Tyson’s brother and father serving in the military, her grandfather, Michael Casale, was an Air Force veteran and was drafted during Vietnam. He was able to finish medical school and earn his doctorate, and went into the service as a captain. He spent two years in Libya. Her father was also drafted into Vietnam and served stateside, and her brother served from 2010 to 2016 in the Navy, serving on aircrafts in the Middle East. The veterans banner project was important to her, not only to honor the service of those who live in her community, but to follow through with what began as a simple conversation at her summer home.

“It’s really cool to see all the others—it’s nice to go down the road and say, ‘Hey, I did that,’” Tyson said. “It’s important because everybody thought it was a good idea, and to do it was another thing.”