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Kendall tree serves as holiday tribute to troops

Yellow ribbons ornaments turn this pine tree  front Kendall County Health Department Building inliving memorial for military veterans those

Yellow ribbons and ornaments turn this pine tree, in front of Kendall County Health Department Building, into a living memorial for military veterans and those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. | Paul Burd~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 25, 2013 6:08AM

YORKVILLE — While most Christmas trees are covered in strands of lights, garlands and bright ornaments, a special pine in front of Kendall County’s Health and Human Services building at 811 W. John St. here has a different kind of decoration — hundreds of yellow ribbons.

Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1 each year, the tree, which has become known as the “Troops Tree,” is first strung with lights and then area residents are invited to place ornaments and ribbons on the branches in honor of a veteran or someone currently serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“It’s a living memorial, a testimony to those who have served or are serving in our armed forces,” said Ed Dixon, superintendent of the Veterans Administration Commission of Kendall County, who requested that the county plant the pine in 2007.

Since then, Dixon said, the number of ribbons and ornaments on the tree has grown each year. People have started calling as the holiday season nears, asking when the lights are going to go up on the tree so that they can hang decorations.

“If you go out there and look at the tree, you see something new each day,” he said. “Someone hung a bird house on the tree this year. I don’t know who that’s for, but that’s OK.”

At the end of the holiday season, when the decorations are removed from the tree by veterans commission staff, Dixon said the ribbons are steamcleaned and stored until the next year, when they are all hung up again, with the new ribbons and ornaments that have been added.

Dixon himself has tied ribbons on the tree for his father, George Dixon, who served in World War II in the Navy in the South Pacific, and for a grandfather, Edwin Ellison, who served in the Army in World War I, and for his two grandsons, Jason Locke and John Griffin, who are currently serving in the Marines. Veterans commission service officers Steve Barrett and Cheryl Bullock also have hung ribbons in memory of loved ones.

Bullock put yellow ribbons on the tree in memory of her dad, Matt Tomasek, who was in the Army/Air Corps in World War II, and others she has hung — for her daughter Michelle Ross, who was an Army captain in the Gulf War; her son Mark Undesser, an Army Ranger medic; and two stepsons, Nick Bullock, an Army Scout, and Brian Bullock, in the Army infantry.

For her, the ribbons are like a prayer.

“A lot of these vets are dead,” she said, pointing to another ribbon hung by a young girl who had lost her father. “They are our heroes. This is like a memorial to them.”

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