Waltrich Plastic Corporation quietly has served the military community for more than a dozen years, without thanks or fanfare.
Since 2002, the Walthourville-based company has supplied the material used to make thousands of yellow bows and patriotic ribbons displayed on trees, streetlights and telephone poles in the Liberty County-Fort Stewart community.
According to the “Yellow Bow” lady, Melinda Schneider, Ladies Auxiliary commander for Disabled Veterans of America, Chapter 46, Waltrich owners Gary and Mark Pokrandt have provided free of charge the webbing for the bows and ribbons she and others have placed in conspicuous places as a show of support for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, the Pokrandt brothers and their company were recognized for their generosity and continued support for soldiers and veterans during a ceremony Monday at the plant’s entrance.
“They’ve been wonderful for providing the webbing so the families of the soldiers know that we have their back,” Schneider said. “They’ve donated over half-a-million yards of webbing since before 2003.”
Schneider thanked Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, members of the Hinesville City Council, Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and veterans’ organizations representatives for taking part in the ceremony.
Brooke Childers, who represented U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, expressed his thanks to the Pokrandts from his perspective as a congressman and as a former state senator.
“(Congressman Carter) sends this congressional resolution recognizing all your contributions to the community — not only your direct contributions, but also as a local employer,” Childers said as she presented a framed copy of the resolution signed by Carter. “We thank you for all that you do.”
Pray also expressed her gratitude for their support for the military — not only from her perspective as a mayor, but also as a mother of a soldier, Maj. Derrick Pray, who has completed several combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. She thanked the Pokrandts’ for serving the community as an employer and for their support for military families.
Thomas echoed Pray’s comments, thanking the Pokrandts for all they’ve done and continue to do on behalf of this military community.
“Sometimes, we don’t really know what these ribbons really mean to the soldiers and their families,” he said. “These ribbons remind the public, our citizens, what our soldiers and their families go through each time they deploy. On behalf of the city of Hinesville, thank you very much.”
Following Thomas’ comments, Schneider read a poem by Paul Spence called, “The Bow,” which talked about the emotional significance the yellow bows have on families of deployed soldiers as well as members of the community and nation they serve.
Gary Pokrandt said he and his brother donate the ribbon material to support the troops and their families and support the military community as a whole.
“The donation of the ribbons is strictly to support our troops,” Pokrandt said. “The ribbon itself is just a product that we make in different colors … The way it started was shortly after the war in Iraq and Afghanistan started, on the way to work one morning I noticed some yellow ribbons on telephone poles on U.S. 84 that were deteriorating because of the weather. I knew we could make yellow ribbon from webbing that would last outdoors for years. I figured if the city was willing to go through the trouble of putting up the ribbon, the least we could do is donate the webbing for the ribbons.”
Schneider admitted she doesn’t know who was putting up the yellow ribbons in 2002, but would like to thank them for starting something that benefits the whole community.
“I was a volunteer for (Army Community Services) and (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) on Fort Stewart when they received webbing from Waltrich Plastic,” she said. “We first made bows using a stapler to hold them together, until an engineer at Waltrich Plastic designed a template that shaped the webbing into beautiful bows. Soldiers copied the template so we could help family members make bows to show support for their deployed soldiers.”