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Yellow ribbons a tradition of support

By Sgt. Jennie Haskamp | | February 14, 2003

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"Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree" is an adage that dates back to the Civil War, and on Feb. 10, a group of Combat Center wives and members of the Twentynine Palms community did just that.

In a press release sent to the community, the Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce invited people to come out and show their support for their high-desert heroes as well as troops deployed from other parts of the country.

Armed with rolls of yellow ribbon and floral wire provided by Country Corners Flower Garden and Jan Peters, owner of Roughly Manor, two groups of women spent time making nearly 300 bows, while socializing and swapping stories about their husbands, most of whom are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Olivia Brewster, whose husband is with 1st Combat Service Support Group, found out about the ribbon-tying project through an e-mail from a Key Volunteer.

"I came tonight because it was nice to be invited to something when I was off work," said Brewster, who brought along a friend from 23rd Dental Company. "I wear a yellow ribbon to work every day, and my dogs have yellow ribbons on their collars. We are all here for the same reason-to show we support our husbands and the rest of the military, and that we want them to return home safely."

Brewster joined wives from 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 23d Dental Battalion, 1st Tanks and 3d Battalion, 4th Marines as well as civilians who work aboard the Combat Center at Roughly Manor, to tie their share of yellow ribbons.

Earlier that day, a group of women tied ribbons and started hanging them up along Adobe Road and inside the main gate of the Combat Center. For the evening group, plans were made to hang their ribbons at a later date, after the impending rain passed.

"We'll break off into fire teams," said Sandy Clarke, wife of Sergeant Major Stephen Clarke, the Combat Center Sergeant Major. "Ok, not fire teams; groups, we'll break up into groups and hang the rest of the ribbons after the rain is gone."

Clarke, a former gunnery sergeant, came to show her support even though her own husband is not currently deployed.

"This is just a great chance for us wives to bond together and network," she said. "We are all in this together, and we just want to show our support for our Marines and Sailors."

According to the American Folklife Center, a yellow ribbon displayed is meant to show support for a loved one away from home. In 1979, after Americans were taken hostage by Iranian revolutionaries at the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, U.S. Ambassador Bruce Laingen's wife Penne tied a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in her front yard to wait for his return.

"I'm standing and waiting and praying, and one of these days, Bruce is going to untie that yellow ribbon. It will be out there until he does," she said in a Washington Post interview from Dec. 10, 1979.

The Persian Gulf Crisis in 1991 saw a resurgence of yellow ribbons in support of deployed U.S. Troops.

Erika Jennings and Aundrea Foskett are 2d Battalion, 7th Marines wives, and their situation is a bit different than most of the wives there.

"I got to see my husband for Christmas," she said, speaking of her trip to Okinawa, Japan. "Those of us with 2/7 get to have regular e-mail from our husbands, but it is still hard. I am here because I know what these ladies are going through. My husband has been gone for six months, and we don't know when he will come home."

Donna Cowdrey, wife of the Brig. Gen. Christian Cowdrey, Combat Center Commanding General, was pleased with the turnout.

"It was a tremendous success," she said. "What a wonderful opportunity for the spouses and community to show support for the Marines and Sailors, and show support for each other as well."

Jan Peters, owner of Roughly Manor and participant in the Operation Enduring Families program is planning future ribbon-tying events.

"I ordered 25 more rolls of yellow ribbon," said Peters, the wife of a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. "I truly want the Marines and Sailors and their families to know how much we support them."

Peters hopes to get units from base to commit to removing and replacing the ribbons as they become worn or destroyed.

"My husband is a retired Marine," she said. "We still feel like we are a part of the military family, and we want all of the spouses to feel at home in our community."

The second batch of ribbons will be hung on Monday. Anyone wanting to participate is invited to meet at Roughly Manor at 3 p.m. More ribbon tying events will be planned in the future. Please call Jan Peters at 367-3238 for more details.

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