Yellow respect ribbons wrap up Invictus

15 September 2023

It’s been a project 18 months in the making.

It has involved volunteers criss-crossing the country from north to south and east to west – travelling  9000 kilometres - seeking thousands of handwritten, personalised messages from German nationals in support of the servicemen and women who dedicated their lives to serving their nations.

The end result is hundreds of two-metre, handwritten yellow ribbons which are being presented as a memento to all 500 competitors from 21 nations contesting Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023.

Yellow ribbons – as a sign of respect – originated 10 years ago, an initiative of Courage! The Gerberding Foundation, an organisation founded by Kirsten and Horst-Otto Gerberding in Holzminden to promote the education and training of young people and adults, youth sports and civic engagement.

Co-founder Kirsten Gerberding said the yellow ribbon of solidarity recognised the efforts of a solider as a human being.

She is hopeful the project will attract international attention and become an ongoing initiative of Invictus Games host nations.

“We made a film that reminds us that a German soldier is more than just a soldier. They are a father, a mother, a neighbour, a friend.

“The ribbons let us express our appreciation, respect and esteem for them, and all service personnel, in a way that they can see it and feel it.

“It’s a word, but it’s written. You can connect … sports is connecting respect,” she said.

Colleague Mike Hartley drove much of the country in the easily identifiable Courage! truck, seeking messages of support.

He said the public didn’t hesitate to get behind the project.

“A lot of people came to me and said what are we doing? I told them the story, that the important point is that we never forget that people went away to war and many came back with problems and they asked me for advice on what to write," he said.

“Many didn’t know what to say, so said they would come back and, when they did come back with a message, I knew they understood the importance of it because they had thought about it deeply.”

'I think, for most of us, things like this are more important than the medals'

Team Australia competitors Dani Hale and Mark Armstrong accepted the yellow ribbons on behalf of the Aussie contingent.

Both were visibly touched by the tangible expressions of German support for their service efforts.

“It’s similar to the laundry bags we were given by Aussie Hero Quilts. Those gifts were from the heart and it’s the same thing here,” Dani said.

“The German people have put thought into it and written something specifically for us in gratitude of our service. It’s mind-blowing knowing there’s one of these for each competitor. That’s just wild.”

Mark said many competitors would value this demonstration above all else.

“I think for most of us, things like this are more important than the medals,” he said.

“This is my second Games, and the pins I have that I have swapped with other competitors are more important to me than the medal I won last time.

“My medal doesn’t come out of the box, whereas I have my pins hanging up and I look at them all the time and they remind me of the people I have met,” he said.

The Invictus Games wraps up on September 16 in Dusseldorf, Germany. The Games use the power of sport to support rehabilitation and recovery of wounded, injured and ill serving and former serving military personnel.



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