View Full Version : Maintaining yellow ribbons on oaks is woman's mission

08-13-06, 08:04 AM
Maintaining yellow ribbons on oaks is woman's mission

Web Posted: 08/13/2006 01:02 AM CDT

Scott Huddleston
Express-News Staff Writer

Every two or three months, toting a bag full of supplies she carries in her trunk, a mother of a Marine puts new yellow bows and ribbons on large oaks at City Hall — two in front, two in back.

Nearly every time, someone sees the Marine Corps lanyard that Kathy Flinn, 65, wears around her neck, the one she carries her keys on, and tells her, "Semper Fi." Some ask if she has a son in the Marines, and she'll tell them about Toby, who's served two tours of Iraq.

The highlight, though, is when Mayor Phil Hardberger comes out during one of her unannounced visits. She introduces herself. Hardberger puts his arm around her shoulder, and says he remembers her.

"He at least acts as if he remembers my name," she said.

"I want to thank you profusely," the mayor says during a typical exchange, per Flinn's recollection. "This is the least we can do for our men and women in uniform."

He asks if he can do anything for her. Once, he offered to help her as she stretched her arms to place a ribbon as high as she could. She declined.

A mayor's assistant, Dawn Larios, whose dad served in the Marines, typically offers to get Flinn something to drink.

Flinn has put up ribbons there for more than two years. Under the previous mayor, city officials asked who'd be responsible for them, and about liability, if she were to fall. They feared staples holding the ribbons might harm the trees.

"I don't think so," Flinn told an aide on the telephone.

So the tradition began. Flinn, a schoolteacher who works downtown, drives by three times a week to see if the ribbons are there and in good shape.

Once, a homeless man who had been digging in the trash came up behind Flinn.

"What're you doing?" he asked.

"I'm putting up yellow ribbons for our troops," she said.

"Oh, that's good miss, that's good."

Flinn and Larios gave him money for food.

A member of Blue Star Mothers of America, a military moms society, Flinn says it's a privilege to support the troops by her work at City Hall, a community icon since the 1890s, even though her son recently left the Marines.

"It's a calling," she said. "I can't let it go. It's my mission to make sure those ribbons stay up until every last person returns."