Mile-Long Yellow Ribbon Bound for Baghdad

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2007 - A mile's worth of yellow ribbon bearing the signatures of 10,000 young Americans is finally bound for Baghdad.

The project has been a two-year endeavor for Matthew Cook, a California high school senior, who began with 75-foot bolts of yellow ribbon before they were sewn into a mile-long expression of gratitude. He said he started this project as a way for the youth of America to honor servicemembers who defend freedom.

"The Mile-Long Yellow Ribbon symbolizes going the extra mile, something our servicemembers do for us every day," Cook said. "The 10,000 signatures show that young Americans have a message and that is, 'We support our troops!"

This project has encouraged thought and dialogue that reinforces to young people just how precious their freedom is, he added.

"Young people need to understand that the corollary of freedom is individual responsibility," Cook said. "If our soldiers are willing to lose their lives to protect our freedom, we must be willing to live up to it."

The finished product weighs in at 460 pounds and is awaiting transport to its intended recipients: servicemembers in Iraq. That trip will begin in the near future, thanks to the Utah Army National Guard's Chief Warrant Officer 5 Paul Holton, founder of Operation Give.

Operation Give is a nonprofit organization that supports children in war-torn and natural-disaster-affected areas of the world. It's also a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program that highlights the ways Americans and the corporate sector are supporting the nation's servicemembers.

Cook contacted Holton, also known as "Chief Wiggles," in hopes of finding help in shipping the massive show of patriotism overseas. Holton's already got the logistics worked out and is just waiting to receive the crate at his Utah warehouse.

"We're going to throw it on a container and send it (by ocean freighter)," Holton said. "It's going to Baghdad, and we've got the military kind of spun up on this so that they can ... make some type of presentation to as many (servicemembers) as possible."

Holton has served in Iraq already and knows what the ribbon will mean to the men and women who receive it. "It makes a big difference," he said. "It's just a boost if we can give them ... anything that shows we care about them and are thinking about them."

The ribbon and its 10,000 signatures will do that, Holton said. It is, however, also the ribbon's fate to end up closer to its original state -- smaller pieces, and lots of them.

"They can all cut off a piece of it, if they'd like (and) take a piece with them," Holton said. "That was the intent: ... for each (servicemember) to have a piece of it with him."

[Web Version:]