Nicole Citro can’t wait to hear F-35s soaring over the Green Mountain State. From her Kimball Avenue-based office she heard the jets’ predecessors, the F-16s, take off and land to patrol the skies after Sept. 11, 2001.
“In those days after the Twin Towers fell, when the skies were void of commercial airline traffic, the only sound you did hear were our F-16s coming and going from their patrols over the east coast,” Citro said. “It is this time in our nation’s history that our community looks to as a definitive reason our Vermont Air National Guard is so important to us.”
With that service in mind, Citro knew she wanted to help the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) in any way she could. In 2012, the memory of yellow ribbons and old oak trees sparked an idea: tie a green ribbon – for the Green Mountain Boys – ‘round any tree and honor the local guardsmen and women. And so armed with banquet tablecloths and scissors, Citro began making ribbons.
“Initially, when I started the campaign back in 2012, I literally would jump in the car every weekend and drive around and tie green ribbons up,” she said. She’d knock on doors to ask if the residents supported the F-16s and would be willing to show their support by displaying the ribbon on their front yard.
“I can remember the first time … when I drove by a house and saw a green ribbon tied up, and I didn’t know who it was, I didn’t tie it up myself,” she said, “it was a very emotional moment to say, ‘Oh my gosh, people are actually listening and taking advantage of this initiative.’”
Citro used to count the number of ribbons displayed. At one point South Burlington had over 200 ribbons tied up. But Citro said that once things took off – pun intended – and folks started hanging ribbons on their own, she stopped keeping count.
“We have at least three, four times a week that people stop in to grab up some stickers [and ribbons],” she said. “This is kind of Green Ribbon central.”
Indeed, the Green Ribbon Facebook page has over 10,000 followers. Thousands of her Green Ribbons, F-35 bumper stickers and other VTANG memorabilia adorn Vermont, New York and New Hampshire residents’ homes and vehicles, she said. Citro offers the ribbons and stickers free of charge in her South Burlington office.
Citro said it’s a way to show the large number of individuals who support the VTANG F-35 basing.
During the Air Force Environmental Impact Statement public comment period, Citro made postcards folks could fill out to show their support for the VTANG F-35 basing in Vermont. The Environmental Impact Statemennt contains a catalogue of where the support postcards were sent from, Citro said, adding most cards came from Vermonters.
“We’ve shown that when it comes to the support to opposition, it’s easily 100:1,” she said.
As for opponents of the fighter jets, Citro said that’s part of the beauty of living in the U.S.: everyone has the right to voice their opinion.
“The number of opponents is very, very small and it’s definitely the same cast of characters that whatever else is going on in this area that they seem to be involved in that complaint, too,” Citro said. “The majority of the people are very, very used to the noise and knowing that [with] their proximity to the Air Guard that there isn’t health concerns and all that.”
Citro said as the arrival of the F-35s draws nearer, she is becoming very excited. She had a chance to see them land in May, when they made an impromptu visit to the base.
“For so long, it had just been this concept of, ‘F-35, OK,’” she said. “But then to have them right there in front of you … it was definitely a very thrilling moment to be able to hear that and see that.”
For her, the expected arrival of the first two VTANG F-35s this week will be akin to “Christmas morning.”
“I am so looking forward to it,” she said and as she reflected on the terror attacks that had occurred 18 years prior. “Today of days is a reminder of the importance of the Vermont Air National Guard to this community and how it is that they protect us and help us.”