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No stranger to military service, retired Air Force Col. hopes people will join his salute to those on frontlines

Salute (Air Force/Released)

Growing up in a military family and dedicating 30 years of his life serving his country, retired Air Force Col. Jim Fryer understands more than most what it means to be on the frontlines.

A Medford resident, he logged over 300 hours of combat time as a pilot. Fryer also spent time as a military adviser on ground deployment. His father had six brothers who fought in World War II, while also serving himself in the Air Force from 1950-1953.

So as he watched the news and saw just how devastating the coronavirus outbreak has become, Fryer wanted to show his appreciation for what health care workers are doing on a daily basis.

“I grew up in a family where patriotism and service to our nation was a big deal,” said Fryer, who has a son currently in the Air Force as a pilot. “It means a lot to a military guy to see the yellow ribbons. It’s nice to see that people recognize your sacrifice.

“Health care workers in this crisis are what firefighters, first responders and military were to 9/11. I thought to tie a ribbon like they do for military people. It was just a small idea to let them know that we care; a small gesture.”

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Fryer has tied light green and light blue ribbons around trees in front of his home – “kind of the colors of scrubs” – and hopes others will do the same. He wants those who are battling the crisis to know they aren’t alone in the fight, including others like logisticians, truck drivers and grocery workers who are keeping people fed.

“It’s an unseen enemy. You can’t put your arms around what you need to fight it,” Fryer said. “They can bring it home at night to their families. Firefighters, military, first responders went to Ground Zero and did their jobs, but when they came home it didn’t affect their families at night.

“This crisis is much bigger than 9/11. The death toll has passed 9/11 and this is ongoing for us. Health care workers didn’t go into the profession knowing they’d be putting their lives on the line. When you’re in the military, you know there may be that chance. You hope you don’t, but it’s part of the deal. It’s amazing they can do that.”

Not big into social media, Fryer said he put the ribbons up and then sent a text to family members for them to join the cause. They ran with the idea.

“My cousin started a Facebook page (Tie a Ribbon) and we put a note on our homeowners association page,” he said. “I’ve seen a couple houses in my neighborhood doing it, I’ve walked the dog and seen ribbons popping up.

“When I came back from Afghanistan, I didn’t bring the enemy with me. That’s absolutely not the case with this. Health care workers could bring it home with them. It’s a big deal that they could potentially get hurt and they still go out. I recognize their sacrifice for all of us and it’s just a small way of showing my gratitude and appreciation.”

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© 2020 NJ Advance Media Group