Best wishes for a successful mission and prayers for a safe return were extended to 3rd Division soldiers during a yellow ribbon rededication at noon Thursday in Hinesville’s Victory Park.
The Hinesville Military Affairs Committee organized the event ahead of the division’s deployment to Iraq. The committee hopes to hang more ribbons around town in addition to the large ribbons now mounted on either side of the park’s oak, dripping with Spanish moss.
Community leaders spoke to a small crowd of veterans, soldiers and their family members. Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, Hinesville Mayor James Thomas, Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker and Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver then unveiled the ribbons.
“We want the 3rd Division to know we’re thinking about them,” said HMAC Chairman David Anderson Sr.
Thomas said he and other residents are sad to see soldiers deploy, but pledged the city would keep their families safe while they “keep America safe.”
“Our city is a second home for most of our military families,” he said.
“As I look at this ribbon I think about support,” Baker said. “That same challenge you have keeping our country safe, I have in keeping your children safe in our school system. I thank you for your service.”
McIver said the community will continue to fulfill its obligations to the military.
“We stand as one,” he said.
Cucolo said it was apt to unveil yellow ribbons in a park named “Victory” and to deploy from a county named “Liberty.”
“This yellow ribbon means deeds match words,” he said.
The general said yellow ribbons don’t carry as much meaning in other communities as they do here. This community is unparalleled in its support of Fort Stewart, he said.
“Soldiers and their families would not stay in the military without the support you provide us. I can’t wait to see you again,” the general said.
Cucolo will deploy with his troops to Iraq within days. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips will serve as senior commander at Fort Stewart during the 12-month deployment.
About 14,000 soldiers are preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, Cucolo said.
Charlie Young, a VFW member, said he knows of no other town that is more dedicated to the military.
P.J. Schneider and his wife, Melinda Schneider, both HMAC members, helped organize the ceremony.
Melinda Schneider, known as “the yellow bow lady,” said the event was Hinesville’s third yellow ribbon ceremony.
“The first (initial dedication) was with Gen. Webster and the second rededication was with Gen. Lynch,” she said.
The yellow bow lady said, “I feel there’s not enough everybody can do to help our soldiers.”