A week ago, the lights went on along Armenia Street for the first time. And Deb Paul could not be happier.
They reflect her family’s dedication and the sacrifices that so many have made.
But these lights don’t make a walking path safe or a holiday more festive.
Each bulb that glows red, white and blue are a way this Fort Atkinson neighborhood is playing tribute to the military veterans across the globe to say thank you – we do not forget.
Paul had the idea on the Sunday before Veterans Day and decided to write a letter to all of her neighbors. She wanted to make this Nov. 11 special and mark a salute to the men and women who are currently or have been part of the military.
While many organizations are honoring veterans throughout the month of November, Paul decided to make her block part of that tribute.
In the letter, she asked if she could help decorate homes along the block with the colors of the stars and stripes. She went to Menards and bought red and blue bulbs to give to each neighbor, knowing many already had white lights.
“I realized we were on a short street and that makes it easy,” she said.
She first went to her closest neighbors and they loved the idea. There even were veterans who lived nearby.
“They (all) knew someone who was a veteran,” she said of her neighbors.
“I got to meet a lot of nice neighbors I didn’t even know I had.”
She also carried an extra string of white lightbulbs in case someone didn’t have them.
For three blocks, neighbors decorated their garages with the American colors.
And one week ago, the lights went on along Armenia Street for the first time like they never had before.
Paul said even a friend at a nursing home could see the lights.
“Most of the lights are on garages,” she said. And one neighbor also put spotlights out in red and white.
Tom Ackerman, a neighbor across the street, said he was a little surprised at the request to put the lights up, but acknowledged Paul had a compelling story.
“We’re friends. We see each other on the street,” Ackerman said. “But we don’t socialize.”
But the gesture is bringing the neighbors closer together along the block.
“Didn’t take much of a demand on my part,” Ackerman said. “Here is a lady who is passionate about something. The least we could do is help her out.”
Ackerman said he was a little surprised by all the cooperation from everyone.
“It was neat. I was happy to be part of it,” he said.
Fort HealthCare that sits near the neighborhood hopes to get into the act next year. Jim Nelson, from Fort Healthcare, said the hospital uses bulbs on a different system, but they hope to be part of next year’s salute.
“We are absolutely supportive,” he said.
also got into the act adding lights to the hospital that is nearby.
But the story about honoring veterans hasn’t stopped when the lights went on. Paul’s next project is to find out more about her brothers in the military – all six of them.
She is one of 12 siblings. And out of the eight boys in the family, six of them served in the military.
They were in Korea, she knows, and Vietnam. But Paul wants to know more about when and where they were stationed and if they were in a war.
The lights are to honor them, and everyone. And the military tradition in Paul’s family continues. Her oldest brother has three grandchildren who have served, she said.
The new tradition, as Paul calls the lighted street in the letter to each neighbor, has stuck.
A week after Veterans Day the lights are still on.