Enid’s Operation Yellow Ribbon shone a sunny light on the community Monday evening as the city’s weeklong plans to honor its veterans got into full swing.

Those in attendance were asked — nay, challenged — to show their support for America’s combat veterans, service members and first responders by tying yellow strands of ribbon throughout town — on cars, utility poles, trees, fences, storefronts and the like.

“We must accept the challenge and go out and tie thousands of ribbons around our community, showing unwavering support for the series and sacrifices made by those veterans, our Armed Forces and first responders,” state Rep. Chad Caldwell, the night’s emcee, said.

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Enid Mayor George Pankonin addresses the audience during a yellow ribbon ceremony Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

Over a hundred veterans and their families, as well as numerous local dignitaries, made their way at dusk Monday to tie ribbons at the downtown Park Avenue public forum space, currently the home of the 140-foot Christmas tree still waiting to be decorated ahead of the holiday season.

Hosted by the city of Enid and Woodring Wall of Honor and Veterans Park, the event carried along the city’s 10-day Veterans Appreciation Week, following a motorcycle ride at the Wall of Honor on Saturday and ahead of an awards ceremony on Veterans Day Thursday.

“I get chills every time we hold one of these events in Enid because of the tremendous support you show to our military members and their families,” said Mayor George Pankonin, a retired Air Force veteran.

Col. Jay Johnson, wing commander of Vance Air Force Base’s 71st Flying Training Wing, said the occasion was a “shining example” of the city’s dedication to veterans and Vance.

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Col. Jay Johnson, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, addresses the audience during a yellow ribbon ceremony Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

Nearby in a tractor trailer sat two oak trees to be planted Tuesday on the roads entering the base, which had been named after two late Vance pilots who died in a plane crash in 2019.

Johnson expressed his gratitude for the relationship between Enid and the Air Force installation, which has trained over 35,000 pilots since it opened in 1941 and currently employs over 2,400 airmen, civilians and contractors.

“Tonight, I’d like to shine light on the fact that this town and more importantly the people of Enid hold a piece of each of our hearts,“ he said. “You make Enid feel like home.”

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Mary Ruffin ties a yellow ribbon on the fence around the Christmas tree in downtown Enid during a yellow ribbon ceremony Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

The ceremony brought the color yellow front and center.

A row of flags — some American, some solid yellow — adorned the block’s sidewalk. Two yellow cars — one classic, one modern — sat parked next to the speaker stage.

Handed out first were ribbons the color of lemon, then glow sticks that, when cracked, would glow a sunny shade.

Then onto the two baby oak trees went two bows of ribbons, adorned by two of Enid’s leaders, Johnson and Pankonin.

As singers sang “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” more ribbons were tied around the chainlink fence surrounding the 140-foot fir.

Then, a moment of silence — for those lost to combat, disaster or just the passage of time — as the neon batons started going up and heads went down.

They stayed up as a lone pastor gave thanks to God, though the bowed heads stayed down.

They stayed up as a lone trumpeter brassed out “Taps,” though hats came off.

And they stayed up as a lone former first responder placed more ribbons on the trees — this time midnight-black, in honor of his fallen comrades and lost combat veterans.

Though drowned out by the street lights standing taller throughout the street, the yellow sticks still shone, even after they came back down.

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Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to aewald@enidnews.com.

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