For Danielle Sipi of Jefferson City, life has been all about a yellow ribbon for the past six months.
“We never thought it would be that big,” Sipi said. “It’s taking over our lives.”
The source of both her joy and frustration are yellow magnetic ribbons, which can be seen on cars and trucks around mid-Missouri. The ribbons read “Support Our Troops” and are designed and sold by a group of military wives from Jefferson City who consider it a way to support their husbands overseas and raise their community’s awareness.
Sipi, a mother of two who works at Capital Region Medical Center, and her friends, Kim Preston and Jamie Borgmeyer, got the idea in January when they visited their husbands in Fort Riley, Kan., shortly before their deployment. They saw similar magnets there and by March, the three ladies had established the Yellow Ribbon Committee and began working with the help of Bee Seen Signs Inc. in Jefferson City.
The ladies consign the magnets to 17 stores in Jefferson City, sell them to friends and family and also involve the Veterans for Foreign Wars. The money from the project — $10,000 to this point — will be used for Christmas packages for the soldiers in their husbands’ unit in Iraq. More than 2,000 magnets have been sold so far and 4,000 more are currently available in yellow and red-white-blue designs.
Sipi said the main purpose of the project is to raise awareness and make the troop deployment personal, even for those who don’t know the soldiers.
“I like to see things like that on other people’s cars,” Sipi said. “My 3-year-old daughter even does it. She knows all about the yellow ribbons. Everyone we know pretty much has one and has sold one to people they know.”
The more practical side of the initiative — sending Christmas packages to Iraq — will get underway soon. The gifts will include nonperishable foods, cards and letters from school children. The ladies have 186 soldiers on their list and will start working on the packages in September. Most of the recipients are from Missouri and some have not received any mail from home so far, Sipi said.
“Letters and packages are big morale boosters over there,” she said. “We’re trying to keep the spirits up.”
But Sipi pointed out that it’s important to keep spirits up at home as well.
“We’re looking for the red-white-and-blue envelope, just like he does,” Sipi said.
Roberta Lee of Columbia, whose husband, Joseph, serves in the same unit in Iraq, said the project is also a way for the ladies to get together and support one another.
“We’ve developed much stronger friendships and ties after the guys left,” Lee said.
Lee, a school teacher and a mother of two, said she meets with her new girlfriends and their children at least once a month. Their time together goes beyond talks about Iraq; they sometimes watch movies, play with the kids and go to concerts.
Lee said most of her family, friends and co-workers have yellow ribbons.
“This is a really great way to see that people care that our brothers, husbands and sons are committing to support a cause,” she said. “The guys that have come home and seen the ribbons feel very appreciated.”
One of the stores in Jefferson City that sells the ribbons is Samuel’s Tuxedos. Owner Sam Bushman said selling the ribbons — and buying them for himself — is his way of showing support. He has had them in his store for two months and said he sells about 15 ribbons a week. He said they would be much more popular if people knew where to find them, but for now — as Sipi acknowledged — distribution relies mainly on word-of-mouth.
“We’ve got 16- (and) 17- year-old people who’re buying them. It’s not only old veterans who’re buying them,” Bushman said. “You’re not saying you support the war, you’re saying you support the troops.”
Bushman said he sees a lot of appreciation from the community towards the soldiers because “everybody knows somebody who’s over there right now.”
The ribbons will be sold at the State Fair on Tuesday. Though several downtown businesses in Jefferson City sell the ribbons, no vendor in Columbia offers them yet.