Garry Montegue has been cutting hair in his Essex shop since 1966. And he is not shy about his support for the Vermont Air Guard. So it is no surprise that he displays a green ribbon in Garry's Barber Shop, and asks patrons to support efforts to being the F-35 jets to Vermont.
"Well, we need the guards. We don't need to lose them. Plattsburgh lost their military, they have not recovered yet. We need our guards, we need the protection and they are a good dedicated group," Montegue said.
Vermont is one of two bases on the Air Force's preferred list for the F-35. It would replace the Guard's aging F-16s. If South Burlington is not picked to host the jets, the future of the Green Mountain Boys could be in question.
Opponents of the F-35 have been vocal. So one South Burlington business owner thought it was time for F-35 supporters to show their colors.
"I started it because of course with everything going on with the F-35 question, it seems like there was a lot more of the opponents of the F-35 being based here that was being communicated more than those in favor of it," said Nichole Citro of Green Ribbon Campaign. "So, I wanted to give those who are in support a way to show their support. And I thought there was the yellow ribbons in the Gulf War, so why not do green ribbons for the Green Mountain Boys."
One of the complaints about the F-35 is noise. Critics say it is much louder than the F-16. Montegue does not buy that argument.
"And the noise over there is probably less than 5 percent of the air traffic over there. The F-4's were a lot noisier. They knew it before they moved there the airport was there," he said.
And Montegue says there is an economic impact if the F-35 does not land in South Burlington.
"They drop nearly $2.5 million on the economy on drill weekends between the hotels, motels, buying gas, going out to eat, haircuts, everything," he said.
The green ribbons are slowly starting to appear at businesses and homes in Essex and South Burlington, and Citro hopes more spring up soon.
"There are a lot of people in this area that are very much in support of the Vermont Air Guard. They work so hard and them and their families sacrificed so much that I think we need to have something that can say to them we support you," she said.
It is not clear what effect public opinion has on the Air Force's decision on the F-35. But Citro feels a quiet show of support speaks volumes.
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