By Cady Kuzmich
Halfmoon– Carol Pingelski Hotaling first began making bows out of the symbolic yellow ribbon back in 1991 during Desert Storm. A quarter century later, the Halfmoon native is still at it — making more than one thousand bows each year.
Poems like “She wore a yellow ribbon” and the song “Tie a yellow ribbon around the ole oak tree” have made the yellow strips of fabric a symbol for those waiting for loved ones to return from faraway battlefields.
Hotaling has been organizing an annual Yellow Ribbon Day ceremony in Saratoga County to honor United States troops since 2006. Though the ceremony typically falls on April 9, this year Yellow Ribbon Day will be proudly hosted by the town of Halfmoon and Hotaling at the Halfmoon Town Hall Friday April 8 at 11 a.m.
Hotaling explained the significance of the original April 9 date, saying it was the day Staff Sergeant Matt Maupin, the first U.S. prisoner of war in Iraq, was captured in 2004. His remains were recovered four years later on March 21.
Hotaling went to Ohio to work with the Maupin family’s charity, The Yellow Ribbon Support Center, for six weeks in 2006. When she returned home to New York, she told herself “I have to start doing more,” so she founded New York State’s Yellow Ribbon Day.
She emphasized that Yellow Ribbon Day is for current troops, noting that those currently enlisted in the military are often left out of Veteran’s Day.
This year’s Yellow Ribbon Day guest speaker will be Colonel Allen Ross, Vice Wing Commander of the 109th Airlift Wing of Stratton Air National Guard Base.
The Saratoga County Clerk’s Offices will be collecting donations throughout the month of March and into early April. The donated items will benefit the local non-profit, VETHELP in Ballston Spa.
VETHELP’s mission is to support homeless veterans “by empowering them to embrace and maintain independent living and self-sufficiency.” The nonprofit operates The Vet House of Saratoga County for male veterans and The Guardian House for female veterans.
Blankets, liquid dish soap, tote bags, shower curtains, bed sheets, lamps, storage shelves disinfectant wipes and air fresheners are some of the items that have been requested. All donations will be presented to VETHELP representatives at the Yellow Ribbon Ceremony at the Halfmoon Town Hall April 8.
Hotaling praised the work of VETHELP, saying “They give counseling and help them find jobs. That’s a big step for them when they come home. So many people don’t know about [VETHELP] at all.
“These men and women are fighting for our freedom. Freedom is not free. They need stuff year round. This isn’t just a one time thing,” she added.