Fargo native who was killed in action featured in 9/11 billboard campaign in Twin Cities
His quiet demeanor is almost visible in his steady eyes. His mouth is upturned slightly to form a friendly smirk.
Michael Hermanson's face is well remembered by a few, but as of Friday morning, the Fargo guardsman killed in Iraq in 2006 has become known to many, many more in the Twin Cities.
As a part of a 9/11 remembrance campaign by Clear Channel Co., Hermanson will be featured on 45 digital billboards here emblazoned with a creed to remember the fallen.
"It's the smallest thing I could possibly do, but it at least shows that we're not forgetting him," said longtime friend Michael Allen, who works at Clear Channel. "His spirit lives on."
In partnership with 911day.org, a nonprofit established after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to honor and remember those affected by the terrorist attacks, Clear Channel has placed commemorations in its 1,000 digital billboards across the country.
Another area army veteran, Christopher Castelli, of Grand Forks, will also be featured in the Twin Cities campaign.
Castelli was nominated for the campaign by his sister, Amy Burckhard, another Clear Channel employee. Castelli served three tours in Iraq and now lives in Colorado.
"I grew up in a military family and (had) close ties with my brother obviously the whole time he was there," Burckhard said. "It's different for them, and they don't forget. They remember the fallen every day, not just on 9/11."
Hermanson was 21 when he died on May 23, 2006, of injuries sustained after his vehicle was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
The Fargo native graduated from North High in 2002 and enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard the same year. He attended two semesters at North Dakota State University before voluntarily deploying with the Guard.
Susan Adams Loyd, president and general manager of Clear Channel's billboard division, said the campaign is pro-bono and employee-driven. An email from corporate higher-ups asking employees how they'd like to commemorate 9/11, and workers like Allen immediately responded.
"When we do public service, we want to do meaningful public service ... and it's especially wonderfully warm and endearing when we're able to do public service that's meaningful to our staff," Loyd said.
Allen, who had known Hermanson since 8th grade, said the army specialist was a quiet and reserved but fun-loving young man who believed in the cause he was fighting for.
"Big heart, always wanted to do the right thing," Allen said of his friend. "I truly believe why he joined was directly related to 9/11. He truly believed in Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Loyd said 45 boards are in high-traffic areas and will catch a lot of glances during commutes in and out of the metro.
"When I tell you millions of eyeballs, I'm not exaggerating because they're in the highest traffic areas of the Twin Cities," she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518
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