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Paynesville Press - April 9, 2003

Volunteers show support for troops by tying yellow ribbons

By Michael Jacobson

Fifteen volunteers decorated downtown Paynesville and the route of Highway 23 through Paynesville with yellow ribbons to show support for America's troops.

"Anything we can do to support them and their families is good," said Gaile Leimer, one of the volunteers and a former member of the Air Force himself.

Volunteers tied yellow ribbons to show support for American troops on trees and street poles in downtown Paynesville and along Highway 23 through town over the weekend. Fifteen people helped the effort, including Gaile Leimer (left) and Sig Pfeifer (right), the coordinator.

Most of the work was done on Saturday morning, with volunteers meeting at the Gazebo Park.

This week, volunteers plan to decorate the route of Highway 55 through Paynesville with yellow ribbons, most likely on Thursday and Friday. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Sig Pfeifer at 320-243-7155.

Pfeifer, who is coordinating the local effort, thought it would be a patriotic thing to do. Pfeifer served 22 years in the army and the army reserve. He organized a similar campaign in Litchfield using his high school students during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when he was called to active service himself. He conducted some training at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin in 1991, but the war ended before he had to go overseas himself.

People in Litchfield really liked the yellow-ribbon campaign, according to Pfeifer.

The volunteers - including two students - did or will decorate the highest-trafficked areas of Paynesville. "We hope that people see (these ribbons) and continue on their own to show their support for the troops in their own way," said Pfeifer.

According to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the tradition of tying ribbons started in folklore with a story about a prisoner returning home from prison and knowing he was welcome by the white ribbons covering a tree in his front yard. Songwriters heard the story and composed the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" in 1972. That song sold millions of copies by various artists, and the folk story was subject to a movie in the early 1970s.

Sue Brauchler of Corner Floral has used 1,100 yards of yellow ribbon to tie 223 bows to decorate Paynesville. Volunteers have already tied the yellow ribbons in downtown Paynesville and along Highway 23 and intend to tie ribbons along Highway 55 this week to show support for America's troops.

In 1975, the wife of a man convicted during the Watergate scandal tied yellow ribbons to her front porch while awaiting his release, a report by the Library of Congress continues. Then, in 1981, the wife of a hostage in Iran tied a yellow ribbon to an oak tree in the front yard of her Maryland home, vowing to keep it there until her husband was released.

The tradition continued to evolve during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, with people tying yellow ribbons and using signs and flags to support the troops serving in that war, according to the Library of Congress.

Locally, Sue Brauchler has tied all the yellow bows used by the volunteers to decorate Paynesville. She has used 1,100 yards of yellow ribbon to tie 223 bows.

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