The Gainesville Korean War Veterans Association received help this Memorial Day weekend with their annual ribbon-threading ceremony.
Volunteers wrapped yellow ribbons early Saturday around 136 trees that wrap the Korean and Vietnamese memorial on Southwest Archer Road. The trees represent the 136 soldiers of Alachua County who were killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars and bear plaques with the names of these soldiers.
About 20 boys and girls from Scouts of America BSA joined with vets to pay their respects to the dead.
Ronald Carbaugh, vice-commander of Chapter 267 of the Korean War Veterans Association, said he had attended the annual ribbon event for the past 17 years.
In the first year of his schooling, he took his 9-year-old grandson, now 22.
Carbaugh showed up early at this year’s event and remembered when the first monument was erected 20 years ago.
“People walk past this everyday and don’t know what it is,” he said.
Worse yet, the memorial site has fallen into disrepair.
Only 35 of the 136 plaques are still intact, said Carl Covey, a Korean War veteran and chief of the Gainesville chapter of the Reinstatement Yellow Ribbon program, which aims to connect veterans with resources in their communities.
Covey said this was due to oak trees growing and dislodging metal nameplates from tree bark. He said he would call the city to try to get the plates replaced soon.
The Vietnam War Veterans Association is working to erect a monument alongside existing ones, Covey said. He added that city officials plan to build a large concrete area and park benches for the memorial site, which Covey says is frequented by families of soldiers.
In the service, Covey worked on B-47 planes and then taught survival classes to soldiers.
“But it’s all behind me now,” he said.
He said his new goal was to help his fellow veterinarians and organize events that are good for the community.
The trees were planted as saplings in 2002, and the annual yellow ribbon event began after the oaks had matured.
At first, it was difficult to find volunteers for the Memorial Day event. One year, Covey put on all 136 ribbons and removed each one himself.
Now he says he can’t go around the tall trees to tie the ribbons.
“I think that might be part of the problem,” he laughed, and put his hands on her stomach.
After Covey gave a brief speech about the monuments, the Boy Scouts teamed up and started making their way through the row of oak trees.
Paul Brake, Scout Troop 432 course director, said he didn’t expect so many of his Scouts to show up.
Brake, who registered for the event at 10 p.m. the day before the ceremony, said he believed only five scouts could show up. He said about 20 of his troop and the Cubs were there to “answer a call from the community.”
“Kids learn that it’s more about service than about yourself,” said Brake.
Brake was a scout growing up and returned to the organization when his son and daughter joined Gainesville’s 432 Troop.
“It’s about keeping the kids active,” he said. “It’s about teaching them to be good people.
Sophia Lok, 11, joined Boy Scouts this year and said she looked forward to an upcoming camping trip to North Carolina, but didn’t care about the community service that comes with being a Boy Scout .
“It’s fun,” she said. “I expected it to be boring.”
After about 40 minutes of threading the ribbons, the volunteers returned to the monument and chatted as “God Bless America” played loudly from a nearby car.
Vets and volunteers plan to remove the yellow ribbons on June 5.