At first, all anyone could see was a yellow ribbon – a bow that you’d choose for your grandmother’s birthday gift – stuck on the Room 1014 sign on the first floor of AULA’s campus. Inside, there was a couch, chair and end table. That was it. Today, the Yellow Ribbon Room has come of age. On November 11, 2015, in honor of Veteran’s Day, a large yellow ribbon tied across the door was cut and the new Yellow Ribbon room was open for all to use.
Reviving the Yellow Ribbon Room was the field study project of MFA in Creative Writing student John Holt. John, a retired Air Force major, was introduced to the Yellow Ribbon Room by AULA Reference Librarian and Instructor Ken Pienkos.
“When I first met John during his MFA residency, his goal was nonfiction for his candidacy, and it centered on his experiences primarily as a military enlisted man and officer. I mentioned there was an empty room downstairs called the Yellow Ribbon Room and the relationship built from there.” As the project progressed, Dr. Steve Heller, MFA Department Chair, asked Ken to be John’s adviser.
Under Ken’s direction, John began thinking about how to “attack the walls,” as he put it. “I began looking at what I could put on those walls.” He wanted it to be a veteran theme with books and artifacts that would give visitors an emotional and tactile experience with veteran memorabilia.
Visitors to the Yellow Ribbon Room will see masks that veterans have decorated with “their feelings” to assuage trauma created by war, original medals awarded for bravery and courage in battle, art, books, and more. John donated from his personal library and his friends have also contributed books and other items. John is hoping that others will donate and/or exchange books, keeping the room energized and providing a place where both veterans and non-veterans can relax, read, and learn about veterans’ experiences.
“I realized how important it is for veterans and non-veterans to have a common place to go and learn from one another. “I’m very big on experiences, like when you’re sitting on an airline flight and you strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You learn something about them, and they learn about you,” John explained. “The Yellow Ribbon Room makes a great place for that kind of thing.” He hopes those kinds of conversations can continue to happen here at Antioch University.