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Italians honored for symbolic support for U.S. troops

After Umberto Armanino, left, received a certificate of appreciation for tying yellow ribbons onto tanks that his workers had repainted, he reciprocated with a gift for Lt. Col. Sandy W. Pogue, commander of Combat Equipment Battalion-Livorno. Alessandro Galeazzi acts as interpreter.

JULIE A. GARDNER / SPECIAL TO STARS AND STRIPES

By JULIE A. GARDNER | SPECIAL TO STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 24, 2003

CARRARA, Italy — When four U.S. tanks were returned recently by an Italian contractor who had been hired to repaint them, they were sporting something new.

The workers had added small yellow ribbons as a show of support for the United States and its war on terrorism.

Last week, Army officials from Camp Darby went to meet the workers and show their gratitude.

“They showed concern by putting those bows on the vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Sandy W. Pogue, commander of Combat Equipment Battalion-Livorno, which is based at Camp Darby. “[The ribbons] represent a safe return.”

On Wednesday, he presented certificates to Umberto and Armando Armanino, co-owners of the Import-Export Armanino auto body repair shop in Carrara, and three of their employees to say thanks for showing solidarity.

The garage staff began repainting military vehicles in September, when an influx of tanks needing maintenance overwhelmed the CEB at the Leghorn Army Depot, next to Darby, and the Army decided to contract out some of the work. When the freshly painted vehicles were returned later that month, they had the yellow ribbons.

“I was inspecting the tanks when I noticed the ribbons,” said Pogue. “I was elated to find out it was local nationals showing support for the soldiers, especially in these difficult times.”

Italy has been the scene of several antiwar protests this year. “A lot of people don’t support the war, but a lot do,” Pogue added. “And they express [support] when they do acts like this.”

“I believe the troops are doing a good thing, they are giving freedom to the people of Iraq,” said Umberto Armanino, who had placed the bows on the vehicles.

Alessandro Pucci, one of the painters awarded a certificate, said he wished a safe return from Iraq for not only U.S. troops, but also the Italians there.

Pucci said learning of the recent deaths of 19 Italian police, military members and civilians as the result of a Nov. 15 blast in Iraq was very painful, and hopes the remaining Italians stay strong as they continue their mission so they can come home soon.

Certificates were also given to painters Vincenzo Del Chiaro and Marco Coltelli.

Pogue said he could not say when or where the tanks with the ribbons would be sent. But he added wherever they do go, the ribbons will remain attached.

— Julie A. Gardner is a free-lance journalist living in Pisa, Italy.