Soon after the start of April, the towns of both Clifton Park and Halfmoon will soon be adorned with yellow ribbons.
The ribbons are the work of Carol Pingelski Hotaling, a Clifton Park resident who has been making the ribbons for 27 years, and has, on occasion, teamed up with other groups, including the Blue Star Mothers of America, to support both veterans and enlisted soldiers.
Hotaling makes all the ribbons herself. A few years ago, she used 75 rolls of waterproof ribbon that cost a total of about $5,500, paid for by VFW Post No. 358 in Ballston Spa.
Hotaling’s ribbons can be found throughout Southern Saratoga County, including Halfmoon, Ballston Spa, Malta and Saratoga Springs.
Hotaling’s efforts with the yellow ribbons are longstanding — each year, she organizes an event for April 9 in Halfmoon that celebrates the day and pays homage to military service members.
Each year since 2006, New York State has unanimously proclaimed April 9 to be the state’s official Yellow Ribbon Day, largely the result of Hotaling’s outreach and work.
The date of April 9 has significance. On April 9, 2004, Staff Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, was captured in Iraq, making him the Iraq War’s first prisoner of war. After his capture, his family established the Yellow Ribbon Support Center, which sent troops care packages along with photographs of Matt in the hope that spreading his story would help locate their son.
Hotaling’s goal, however, has been to spread the idea of the day much farther than New York.
“The Yellow Ribbon program has only been in Saratoga County,” Hotaling said on Sunday. “Nobody else does this.”
But finally, her work is paying off.
U.S. Representatives Paul Tonko (D-New York) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) introduced the Yellow Ribbon Day Resolution recently expressing congressional support for designating April 9 officially as Yellow Ribbon Day to honor the service and sacrifice of active duty troops at home and abroad, and their families throughout the United States.
“Our active duty service members and their families sacrifice much and risk everything to keep us safe,” said Tonko in a media release. “Expressing congressional support for a Yellow Ribbon Day is a way to honor them for their bravery and thank them for their service as protectors of our freedom and our way of life. I am grateful to the many New Yorkers, including in our state legislature, for leading the way in recognition of Yellow Ribbon Day and I urge Congress to respond in kind and support this positive, bipartisan resolution.”
“I am proud to support the National Yellow Ribbon Day to honor the life and memory of Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, and all those who have been held as prisoners of war,” said Wenstrup, in a release. “Though Matt is no longer with us, his memory will never perish. My prayers are with Matt’s parents as we approach the anniversary of his capture. I am grateful to the Maupin family for their sacrifice for this nation, and for all they have done to support our service members and families through the Yellow Ribbon Support Center.”
State and local efforts to formally recognize Yellow Ribbon Day have received support from organizations including American Gold Star Mothers, endorsing the resolution nationally, as well as Blue Star Mothers of America and Patriot Guard Riders in the New York Capital Region.