Preparing for a homecoming

About 25 people spent last Saturday tying 8,000 yellow ribbons to the Missouri Gate of Naval Station Bremerton while singing “America the Beautiful” and “The Star Spangled Banner” as an act of support for deployed local troops.

“There’s one (ribbon) for every man and woman on all five ships and the fleet hospital,” said Juliet Hough, organizer of the Yellow Ribbon Rally on April 26 — National Support Our Troops Day.

Silverdale resident Randy Bartholomew, who is retired from the U.S. Navy, was one of the those tying ribbons.

“I know what it’s like to have long days of sea and it’s nice to be remembered,” Bartholomew said. “Sept. 11 was a tragic thing, but since then we no longer take our boys in uniform for granted.”

Sgt. Raymond Welch, naval police for Bremerton Naval Station, said he thought the ribbon rally was a fine idea and even hung one for good measure.

“It’s great for all our people coming home. It’s one of the greater things I’ve seen done here,” Welch said. “They’ve been gone a long time and they’re due back. They’ll be back soon don’t worry about it.”

Nine-year-old Taylor Shapley was also at the rally.

“I want to welcome our troops home,” Shapley said.

It took the supporters about three and a half hours to hang all 8,000 yellow ribbons.

Hough decided to organize the rally because her husband James is in charge of security aboard the fleet hospital and was sent to the Middle East. She wanted to show him and the other troops Bremerton supports them.

“I wanted to show him we are standing behind him,” Hough said. “I wanted to let everybody know their homeport supports them and that Bremerton was willing to do something on a grand scale to stand behind them.”

While at the rally, Hough snapped photos which she plans to send to all of the ships so they can see what Bremerton is doing even before they return.

The USS Camden is to return to Bremerton on May 5. It’s the first of the five to return.

“We still have four others out there and they need our support,” Hough said. “We care and we’re thinking about them.”

Hough’s son Chris Cheshire is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. Hough hung red, white and blue bows on the fence to show support for those troops that were not sent out from the immediate area, such as her son.

All of the funds for the rally came out of Hough’s own pocket. She said some local businesses, including Signtown USA and Addison Construction Supply gave her discounts on the ribbon.

Hough wouldn’t say how much she spent on materials for the rally.

“It wasn’t about the money. It was about the show of support,” Hough said.

The fence isn’t finished yet; Hough still plans to make a banner that reads “Welcome home” and hang it diagonally across the yellow ribbons, under each ship’s name when they return.

“I hope it sparks people to show these guys they’re heroes,” Hough remarked. “As a grateful hometown and community, we support them.”

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