By Jacqueline M. HamesOctober 25, 2010
"Reflect, remember, rejoice," is the slogan of the Our Heroes' Tree program, an initiative honoring the service of all military members.
Through a display of ornaments on a tree, the program aims to recognize and remember both servicemembers and their Families.
Stephanie Pickup, an Army spouse, and Marlene Lee, the mother of a Soldier, founded the Our Heroes' Tree program in 2005 as a way to stay connected to their Soldiers and unite their communities.
The program is for anyone connected to the military in some way, Pickup said. "You don't have to be an Army wife to have a hero on the Heroes' Tree."
"Our Heroes' Tree program is a community-based program that honors the service and sacrifice of our nation's military and their Families," Pickup explained.
The underlying principles allow people to adapt the program to their communities' needs while still maintaining a theme, Lee added.
There are three main principles to the OHT, according to the program's founders: Start a tradition, share community spirit, and unite the community in patriotic pride. The program honors servicemembers and helps bring Families together to support each other during deployments, or when a loved one is killed.
The requirements for OHT are two American flags at the top of the "tree," a yellow ribbon, individual ornaments for servicemembers, and the recitation of the Our Heroes' Tree poem during the tree dedication ceremony, Lee said.
"Whatever we did, we wanted it to be positive and uplifting, and a way to bring people together to support each other, get to know each other, and be in this together," she said.
The program, while suited to the holiday season, is also ideal for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, or as a farewell for deploying Soldiers, Lee added. The "tree" doesn't have to necessarily be a tree, either, as long as it has flags and a yellow ribbon. It can be a bulletin board or other static display for the ornaments.
Starter kits can be downloaded for free from the program's website (provided in the editor's note). Each kit includes guidelines for how the tree should look, a sample timeline for the dedication ceremony, and suggestions on how to start personalized OHT traditions.
Editor's notes: This story was originally published at www.army.mil in December 2009. The program guidelines remain the same for 2010. Stephanie Pickup and Marlene Lee, co-founders of Our Heroes' Tree, provided photos and anecdotes specifically for the November 2010 issue of Soldiers. For more information, visit www.heroestreeprogram.com.
Mr. Eugene Morrow, pictured in this article, passed away on Oct. 19. The magazine would like to extend its condolences to the Morrow Family.