By Adam Strunk, Newton Now
Kris Thomas methodically tapes piece after piece of red white and blue construction paper on the glass window of Cato Fashion, where she’s an assistant manager.
She has 2,100 strips to hang by July 4. She’s quickly running out of space at the location, 401 Windward Drive, and will have to start hanging them at the store next door soon.
She has them arranged in an alternating pattern. She’s made an american flag out of the papers that hang above the door.
From the street, Thomas’ labor looks like someone went overboard on store decorations for Independence Day.
But when people walk closer, they can see the work represents a mosaic of American service. Printed on each piece of paper is the name of a veteran, either living or deceased.
“My son is in the military,” Thomas said. “So this is near and dear to my heart.”
While some people might hang a flag or light a few fireworks to celebrate July 4, Thomas said she wanted to do something more by honoring those who served.
She’s been asking on social media for names of veterans, and she’s been getting responses locally and from all over the country.
She handwrites them in a notebook, each with a name, branch and if they’re living or have passed away.
“I have people who have sent names from as far as Florida,” Thomas said, adding she had no idea what started as a very small display would grow into her current massive undertaking.
The project started out a few days before Memorial Day at the store. She said they had just gotten in some patriotic T-shirts. The store’s manager suggested they put some info on the window about the shirts.
Thomas said she’d like to put the names of some veterans up on the window next to the writing.
She put out a call online for some help.
“We had 350 names in four days,” she said.
Seeing the idea had struck a chord, beginning in June, she began asking in local social media groups if people had more veterans they wished to honor. And in little over a month, her count of names had grown to 2,100. She’ll be taking names until July 4.
She said the display has been a hit with customers.
“They love it,” she said. “A lot of them have enjoyed it—especially the American flag above the door.”
Thomas has had a little help with the work. Her sons, including the one in the U.S. Army Reserves, have come by to help with the project.
Thomas expects her son to ship out in the coming months.
Thomas said she hopes her entire project reminds people to think of those who served and are serving on this holiday.
“We want people to realize the military is the reason we are free,” she said. “I’m standing here in sandals and not having my face covered because our men and women fought.”