LITCHFIELD — A local military mom is disputing a decision made by the borough’s Board of Warden and Burgesses to remove yellow ribbons honoring the military from the town green.
Leslie Caron, whose son serves in the U.S. Air Force, said about three dozen ribbons were initially affixed to the trees soon after the start of the Iraq War in 2003.
All was fine, she said, until 2009 when they started disappearing.
“The board of the borough of Litchfield decided they didn’t want them up there anymore,” Caron said. “They said it’s been long enough. The fight began. We went back and forth for quite a while.”
A compromise was reached in 2010, Caron said, that allowed them to keep five ribbons up so long as they maintained them.
That compromise has seemingly ended now, with the borough board voting in September to have the ribbons removed by Jan. 2.
“This was 11 years ago,” Caron said. “Everything quieted down. This summer we were on vacation and we came back to no ribbons. We put them back up. And they came back down. And nobody is admitting to who is taking them down.”
Gayle Carr, the new senior burgess, said the vote to remove the ribbons was in line with the borough’s ordinance that no signage can be posted on the green. In their interpretation of the ordinance, the ribbons are signage because they represent speech and have symbolism.
“The borough board is charged with the enforcement of the ordinances that govern the borough,” Carr said. “One of the central pieces of that is the care and maintenance of the National Historic Landmark known as the green. There’s a concern that by allowing those ribbons in the first place ... a prior configuration of the board had allowed something that is essentially prohibited by the borough ordinances ... and that’s not a good thing.”
Caron believes the decision is anti-military in nature.
Carr said that’s not the case, explaining the board would have reached the same decision if someone wanted to place pink ribbons on the trees for breast cancer awareness.
“The decision to take down the yellow ribbons in no way means that we do not like or support our military or our veterans,” Carr said. “It is not about that. The statement of the Carons is really disturbing. They seem to not have the capacity to recognize that you can support our military without having the yellow ribbons. For some of us, flying the flag is enough to respect and reflect.”
In 2016, a monument was placed on the town green by American Legion Post 27, listing the names of 33 Litchfield residents who have served in the military since Aug. 2, 1990 — the day the Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait.
Caron’s son’s name is on that monument.
But for Caron, seeing the bright yellow ribbons represents something more.
“This is very important to us,” Caron said. “It’s in support of our military and our military families. This is our military and they keep us safe. They give these people the right to do what they’re doing to us. We just have an awful lot of support in town.”
Carr believes the monument and the American flag flying on the green should be enough for Litchfield to honor its local military members and veterans. There are also monuments on the green honoring those who served in the Vietnam, Korean and Civil wars as well as World War I and World War II.
“I understand it is an emotional issue for them,” Carr said. “We are just trying to make sure that the green is maintained as an appropriate National Historical Landmark. The flag flies higher than it all. We should remember that. That’s what it’s there for. It’s not about the yellow ribbons bringing us together. It’s the flag that brings us together.”
After attending the board’s meetings in October and November, to voice her support for the ribbons, Caron said she plans to attend the December meeting to do the same. It will be her last chance to convince the board to reverse its decision before the ribbons are supposed to be removed.
“If people support the ribbons, they have to let the borough know,” Caron said. “We don’t know where they are coming from. They say it’s the borough rules. They can be changed and modified. In 2010, we have it in writing where there was a vote allowing the five ribbons. They don’t care about that [compromise].”