Archive for Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Viewpoints: Yellow ribbon down sooner than we expected

July 23, 2003

We hoped we wouldn't have to leave it up long.

Four months ago, under the direction of Mirror news editor Lisa Scheller, hundreds of Tonganoxie area residents gathered at Fourth and Bury streets to have their photograph taken with a giant yellow ribbon. Scheller and her husband, Fred, had constructed the ribbon from donated chicken wire and yellow fabric.

It was something to behold.

Lisa took a photograph of all of those folks and the yellow ribbon that we published in the April 2 edition of The Mirror. And we posted the picture on our Web site, in hopes that members of the military from the Tonganoxie area who had been deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and other U.S. military operations around the world would know we supported them.

From the outset, my concern about our nation's involvement in Iraq has been that it not turn into another Vietnam. And that Americans not treat service men and women as shoddily as Vietnam vets were treated in the 1960s and 1970s. Clearly, American society is different now. But we cannot afford to repeat the ghastly mistakes we made then.

So seeing about 500 people gathered in the middle of downtown Tonganoxie on a bright spring morning was inspiring to me. From elementary school students to elderly residents, they came as a show of support.

And what a show it was.

After the photo shoot, Fred fastened the yellow ribbon to the red brick front of The Mirror office. It joined other yellow ribbons that adorned trees and railings throughout Tonganoxie.

There it hung, as a daily reminder of people who were doing work on our behalf, thousands of miles away.

But a few weeks ago, our ribbon disappeared.

Several days later, I received a telephone call from a local man who said he knew where our ribbon was. It seems his 17-year-old daughter and one of her friends stole it, along with a sign for the Goat Show, some road construction barriers and banners advertising drinks at local businesses. It must have been quite a night.

The father said he'd repeatedly asked his daughter to return the ribbon and apologize to us here at The Mirror.

She'd done neither, so he called. I appreciate that.

He gave me his address, and Lori Rahjes, our office manager, and I went to retrieve the ribbon. I assumed it had been cared for. I assumed we could return it to our wall.

But I was wrong.

It had been carelessly tossed behind a propane tank, under a small mulberry tree. It had set outside for several days. It was a mess.

So the ribbon won't go back up.

I had hoped we could use the yellow ribbon in another photo shoot someday -- one with military members from the area, safe in Tonganoxie. It would have been fitting.

Lisa already is at work on another idea for some type of ribbon, one we hope will not attract the attention of young adults with nothing better to do.

And while it will be nice to again see a yellow ribbon on the front of our little building, it won't be the yellow ribbon, the yellow ribbon that so many people posed with, the yellow ribbon that so many people saw each day as they passed by.

The yellow ribbon, much like the American flag, was a symbol. It had a voice. It said we care. It said we will not forget. It said we will remember.

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