Hotaling, of Ballston Spa, is affectionately known as the “Yellow Ribbon Lady,” around town. Hotaling began making hundreds of yellow ribbons by hand during the Persian Gulf War in 1990, signifying her support for our fighting men and women overseas. Now over two decades later and with thousands of ribbons behind her, Hotaling continues to push forward, honoring those she considers to be her absolute heroes.
“They’re all my heroes,” said Hotaling, “because they really believe that what they’re doing is right. Somebody’s got to protect our country, and we should never forget what they do for us.”
Hotaling’s ribbons can be seen all across the Capital District, hanging from telephone poles and street signs from Saratoga Springs to Albany and everywhere in between. The ribbons, said Hotaling, are there to serve as a simple reminder, as a way to honor the many sacrifices made by our troops and their families.
“People forget too fast about a lot of things in this world today,” said Hotaling. “But we can never forget our soldiers. They’re out there fighting for us every single day, and sometimes people think nothing of it. That’s why I like to get the yellow bows out and keep them out as much as we can, so when you see a yellow bow, you remember our troops.”
“She’s very dedicated to the military. Very,” said Janet Moran, president of the Blue Star Mothers of America Capital Region Division. Together, Moran and Hotaling will be holding a Holiday Troop Drive at Colonie Center Saturday and Sunday, collecting donations from the community to package and send to soldiers far from home.
“Carol has been dedicated for some 20-odd years. She’s always looking for opportunities to support the military and bring public attention to the military so they’re not forgotten,” said Moran.
Five years ago, Hotaling helped spearhead a movement to make April 9 the official Yellow Ribbon Day in New York State. Now with the help of Congressman Chris Gibson, Hotaling hopes to turn this day into a national day of remembrance.
“Congressman Gibson has already gotten it passed in Congress,” said Hotaling. “My goal all these years has been to have a Yellow Ribbon Day in every state on April 9,” she said, explaining that April 9 was the day back in 2004 when our first prisoner of war, Private Matt Moupin, was captured by Iraqi insurgents.
“There’s always ways to support our soldiers,” said Hotaling. “We have to help them and their families because it’s really much needed now.”
While Hotaling’s ribbons remind us to think about those fighting overseas, this Veteran’s Day it’s important to consider those who have returned home.
Following the recent announcement from President Obama that the United States will honor a promise to withdraw troops from Iraq (a promise first made by former President George W. Bush) by the end of the year, continuing to support our troops as they return home becomes more important than ever – especially considering the difficult economic climate they will return to.
“That is a big concern,” said Moran, who worries about returning soldiers gaining employment once they find their way back home. Of course, notes Moran, many troops still fight for our country in Afghanistan and continue to deserve our support. But as for those on their way back to the states, “I know personally some of the moms that have had children returning home, and those kids are having difficulty finding work.”
Assimilating back into civilian life, even during the best of times, can be a difficult transition for veterans of our armed forces. In climates such as these, however, support and understanding is all the more important.
Fortunately, there are a variety of resources throughout the Capital District for veterans to take advantage of once they return. On Friday, November 11, the SUNY Adirondack Office of Enrollment Management is hosting a veterans admission information session from 10 a.m. – noon. Located at the Warren Hall, New York State Veterans Affairs Counselor Harry Candee will meet with prospective students, discussing with them the GI Bill’s benefits and goals. Individuals attending are asked to bring a copy of their DD214 and an official copy of their high school transcript (sealed in an envelope), or a copy of their GED. Students will be admitted to the college instantly. Call (518) 743-2264 for more details.
There are also many different programs available through the Veterans Affairs bureaus scattered throughout the state, which work to help veterans find employment, receive benefits, get the proper job training and more. Visit www.va.gov to learn more.
To support the Holiday Troop Drive, please visit the Center Court at Colonie Center Saturday from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., or Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Albany County Executive Mike Breslin will attend as a guest speaker noon on Saturday, and Congressman Chris Gibson will speak noon on Sunday. The Blue Star Mothers organization hopes to send 700 freedom boxes, filled with items donated over the weekend, to our troops overseas.