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GREEN RIVER — Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting a special welcome to this western Wyoming city.

A billboard next to Interstate 80 just west of town shows members of the armed services saluting the flag; the caption below the picture reads: "The City of Green River proudly supports our Troops at home and abroad." A ribbon-cutting ceremony was planned for today to inaugurate the sign.

"I think it looks pretty darn neat," said Harry Holler, a 65-year-old disabled miner who led the effort to put up the billboard.

"These are our young men and women that are serving in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and they deserve all the support and recognition we can give them," he said.

For years, Holler has presented T-shirts and plaques to Sweetwater County soldiers and their families and sent care packages to soldiers overseas.

He got the idea for a billboard while talking to a Marine, Pat Juancorena, who had just returned from a second tour in Iraq.

"We were sitting at the bowling alley having a beer, and he said something about how he had seen a little 'Welcome back home, troops' sign in Montana or someplace," Holler said. "We talked and pretty much said, 'Boy, wouldn't it be great if we could have a billboard out on the highway saluting these kids for the effort they've given.' And there it is."

Holler worked with local residents and the area's chamber of commerce to develop the sign, and the City Council provided about $7,000 to cover one year's use of the billboard.

Now Holler hopes other cities and towns will copy his idea.

"These kids are catching enough hell over there and laying their life on the line every day, and we really want to show them that we appreciate them," he said. "I hope the idea might spread around."

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