Cindy Lehman's task was to design and decorate a small three-foot Christmas tree for Madrid's annual holiday event, but she quickly realized three feet wasn't enough to honor our Iowa heroes.
Friday night at the VFW Post 5060 in Madrid has a little extra holiday and soldier spirit.
"It represents each and every one of our soldiers that's been killed since 9/11," explained Cindy Lehman, about the tree.
Maj. Stuart Wolfer, Spc. Casey Byers, Cpl. Chad David Groepper... the list goes on. Ninety-one Iowa soldiers have given everything for their country, and this Christmas tree is how Cindy Lehman and daughter Katrina can give a little back.
"Each and every one has given their lives for our freedom."
Cindy's mom Donna Page is the third generation who made the tree a reality, even buying a laminating machine for the ornaments, but Donna didn't want any recognition.
"She's very modest," Cindy said.
The family has relatives and friends who have served in the Middle East and in previous wars making the project hit even closer to home.
"Everybody loses. Every time one of our soldiers die, it's not just their families, it's their whole community," said Cindy.
Katrina also made a scrapbook dedicating one page to each hero to remember each one's sacrifice.
"I worked on probably five pages each night trying to get this done," Katrina said. "I love it. I love doing it."
Since starting the tree and scrapbook, the women had to add two more soldiers that died this month: Pfc. Brandon Buttry of Shenandoah and Sgt. Joseph Richardson of Algona. They hope those are the last two ornaments they have to make.
"Merry Christmas to all our soldier families out there, and hopefully everyone will come home soon," wished Katrina.
The tree is in need of a permanent home. If Iowa soldiers have a special place in your heart, you can purchase the tree.
The VFW Post in Madrid put it up for auction and will be accepting sealed bids until noon on Christmas Eve. The money raised will help veterans.