Christmas trees abound as the holiday season approaches, but there’s one in town that’s unique, with photos as ornaments and garland of red, white, and blue ribbons. It’s one that honors veterans, across generations and oceans, and it’s located right here in Zionsville at Akard True Value Hardware Store in Boone Village. “Five or six years ago, we wanted to do something to honor our veterans. We started with the veterans who work here and then opened it up to the community. We encourage people to bring in pictures to share,” says Joe Hollingsworth of Akard, co-creator of the veteran’s tree with owner, Leigh Ann Akard. They even have a photo machine on site so people can keep their original photos and hang a copy of the tree.
Using prime realestate in their store, this giant tree not only tells the story of veterans but also that of history. “We have photos from the signing of the peace treaty on the USS Missouri to the rebuilding of Japan after WWII,” says Hollingsworth. As a veteran himself, he knows the difficulties that service men and women face being far away from home, especially at the holidays. This tree will help remind patrons of ones who have served but also ones still serving who will be separated from their families this holiday season.
Along with the tree are donation boxes to collect winter clothing and personal care items for homeless veterans as part of the Hope for Heroes project. Donations are being accepted now through Dec. 16. Leigh Ann Akard sums up the veteran’s tree and partnership wtih Hope for Heroes, “We help the homeless veterans and have this tree as a tribute to our freedom. We are so blessed to be free. If these people didn’t sacrifice we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have to celebrate the holidays. They gave us the ultimate gift – freedom.”