Sara Story, Denton Reporter
A Lewisville woman removes ornaments filled with soldiers' names and pictures from her tree after the end of the Iraq War.
The end of the war in Iraq marks the final chapter for a Lewisville woman's project.
Bryson Gappa made it her mission to honor fallen soldiers with a memorial to them in the trees in front of her home.
"I knew I had to do something to make other people see them as real people," Gappa said. "I saw one kid that looked like he probably played soccer with the kids next door or mowed your lawn in the summer. I saw one that had the most incredible smile. I always wondered what he was thinking."
Gappa gets to know each person by creating an ornament in their honor. She hangs the ornaments in her trees.
"I have referred to them as mine for years, and they are mine -- every single one of them. I know them," Gappa said. "I just knew I was going to do it until I didn't have to do it anymore, and that day finally came."
The end of the war Iraq meant Bryson could take down the ornaments in two of her trees.
"I have always said it was hard to take them down. I came out here that night and stood in that dark, quiet side of the yard, and it's weird," Gappa said.
More than 400 ornaments are now stacked on her dining room table, waiting to go home.
"I made them two promises when it all started. I said, 'I will do this until I don't have to do it anymore, and I will do my best to send them home,'" Gappa said.
Outside, the tree dedicated to men and women killed in Afghanistan still stands. Bryson said she'll stick to her promise until the very end.
Denton County officials want to display some of the ornaments in a museum. Gappa said she will hand over the ornaments that are not sent home.
She wants family members of the fallen soldiers to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if they want the ornament.