When Vicki Coleman said goodbye to her only son last month as he left Norfolk on an aircraft carrier headed for the Persian Gulf, she took comfort in the thought that his departing view from the deck would be the yellow streamers draped around the seaport town in honor of the U.S. troops.
Arriving back at her Wheaton home, Coleman set out to re-create the patriotic display she had seen.
The effect is both brilliant and blinding. Along University Boulevard, yellow, plump, bows greet the eye on both sides of the street for two blocks. Winter-drab trees have been brightened by yellow streamers wrapped around the trunks. Lampposts and staircases leading to shops and offices also have been adorned with large ribbons, elaborately looped to make six bows on each tie. Even trash cans did not escape Coleman's intricate designs, which first began appearing Jan. 23.
"All I want the yellow ribbons to mean is we support our troops and their families," said Coleman, 37. Her son, Tony, 19, is an electrician on the USS Roosevelt.
Coleman went from door to door in the Wheaton Shopping Center, where her commercial and residential cleaning business, Huff-N-Puff, is located. She asked permission to hang the ribbons in nearby restaurants, auto part stores, laundromats and the local delicatessen.
A local florist gave her a discount on the 500 yards of ribbon she needed and the nearby Safeway and Giant Food stores kicked in 60 yellow bows. Across the street, the Amoco and Shell gasoline stations offered to place boxes of ribbons on their site so their customers could take one home.
"We really did it up," Coleman says. Although she points out that she doesn't want the town "turned into a yellow ribbon," she is hoping people will pick up on her idea and display a ribbon in their home and office.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Coleman has already started her next project, a desert troop support fund to buy Nintendo video games for Tony and his shipmates. A letter from her son told how popular the games are on board the ship.
"He would be really happy, like, 'Wow, look what my mother did,' " said Coleman, trying to picture her son's reaction to the bows and video games. "I think it will be a real morale boost for the guys on the ship, that someone cared enough to do this."