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June 11, 2010

American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter unveils Hero’s Tree mural

TERRE HAUTE — A yellow ribbon tied around an old oak tree marks the focal point of a new Hero’s Tree mural honoring military veterans and family members on a wall at the American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter.

“I am actually a little bit almost overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up,” said Col. Chris Colbert, vice commander of the 181st Intelligence Wing Indiana Air National Guard at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

“I knew they had a painting on a wall, but it is a little bit more than that. There is a lot of color and detail, but the yellow ribbon definitely stands out. You know when you see one of those, especially one fresh and bright like that, it means a lot. It is very well done,” Colbert said prior to a dedication ceremony Friday at the Red Cross building at 700 S. Third St.

Carol Stevens, executive director of the Wabash Valley chapter, said the idea started when Mary Beth Jensen and Stephanie Land, staff members for the American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter, returned from a conference where they learned of a hero’s tree where names and photographs of military members could be placed to honor their service.

“At first they built a bulletin board and we thought this is nice, but there is something missing. This needs to be a bigger project and something more permanent,” Stevens said.

Stevens than asked Red Cross volunteer and Terre Haute artist Pat Grigg to consider painting a mural. Grigg has painted murals at Olin Hall on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

“I was just told to have a hero tree and two flag poles, one U.S. and one Red Cross,” Grigg said prior to the ceremony. “The mural colors are of spring flowers and trees of Indiana with the Red Bud and Dogwoods, plus the daisies.”

Grigg said she has worked for about three weeks using acrylic paint to make the mural, which also includes geese and a blue heron. Grigg said she still has some work left do on the mural, including painting in more wildlife and plants.

“She took our simple vision and made it into a beautiful, living memorial to our military veterans,” Stevens said during the dedication ceremony.

Once the paint on the Hero’s Tree mural has cured, the Red Cross encourages people to bring in photos of their loved ones in the military and place it on the wall along with a star. The Red Cross is at 700 S. Third St.

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, whose father served in the U.S. Marines Corp during World War II, said the mural is an important reminder of family.

“I think a lot of times people forget about the behind the scenes stuff and the families … the support system and what it takes in a community to make sure we take care of families and their issues,” Bennett said. “I think the hidden sacrifice is the families, so everything we can do to raise awareness and be supportive of the families. The ultimate sacrifice is to stand up and volunteer to serve for this country and many give their lives for it.”

Bennett formerly served as a disaster chairman for the local Red Cross chapter and served on the chapter’s board of directors.

Colbert said he supports the Red Cross, adding his youngest of three daughters will leave for basic training on Tuesday.

“As supporters of the Red Cross, it is absolutely the first place that we go when we don’t know the answer or we have a military member that needs help. An example is when someone is deployed overseas and a family member back home is either sick or has passed away,” Colbert said.

“It is a privilege for the Red Cross to say that they are going to honor veterans and service members, past and present,” he added.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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