Ridgefielder’s project supports troops deployed overseas: ‘We hope that it spreads like wildfire’

RIDGEFIELD — Lianie Ochoa has lived in military communities her entire life. So when she and her family moved to Ridgefield three years ago, she felt a certain void.

Wanting to change that, Ochoa, 16, launched an initiative to paint the town yellow. The project involves displaying yellow ribbons in support of Connecticut’s 600 National Guard members who are currently deployed overseas.

The latest class — the largest in years — includes Ochoa’s father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Ochoa. He was deployed to Africa in March 2021 and is slated to return home in January 2022.

Ochoa was inspired to hang ribbons around Ridgefield after seeing them in nearby Carmel, N.Y. Resident Nicole Cautillo launched the same initiative in her community earlier this year in honor of her husband, U.S. Staff Sgt. Alfonso Cautillo. He is also a member of Connecticut’s National Guard.

“A yellow ribbon symbolizes military members who are away — it’s a sign to show support,” Ochoa said. “It’s very important to remember our troops who are deployed because they’re sacrificing their lives for our everyday freedoms.”

Ochoa is using social media to find residents who may be interested in displaying a yellow ribbon on their property. She will hang them up around town with the help of her younger brother, Joshua.

Although the ribbons are completely free, Ochoa is also accepting donations to benefit Project Sanctuary. The organization provides retreats to service members and their families to help them readjust to life after deployment.

“We went on a retreat with them after my father came home when I was 6 or 7,” Ochoa said. “They believe in the power of healing (to help soldiers readjust) to being back. It’s not as easy as it sounds.”

So far, Ochoa’s initiative has been welcomed in Ridgefield “with open arms,” she said. “It’s amazing how much support I’ve received.”

Cautillo said the ribbons will serve an even greater significance once the soldiers return home.

“When you start seeing those ribbons around your own community, you feel backed up,” she said. “We hope that it spreads like wildfire.”

Ochoa said her father is “beyond proud” to know his community has his back.

“Deployment, as hard as it can be, does a lot of good,” she added.

Residents can message Ochoa on Facebook to request a ribbon.