Aurora veteran organizing statewide welcome home for soldiers

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An Aurora woman is hard at work putting the finishing touches on a huge event that will honor every Colorado soldier returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And she knows a thing or two about how veterans should be treated.

To look at Paula Sarlls, she may look like a nice little old lady.  Hard to believe she’s a former marine.

It was back in the late 60s when she did the unthinkable.  Against her mom's wishes, she ran off and joined the Marine Corps.  She was one of the few women to do so.

“We had 2500 women marines in the Marine Corps at that time,” Sarlls told FOX31 Denver.

“Men didn't want us there, so it was a hard time to be a female Marine.”

Of course, it wasn't all bad.  She met her husband, Tony (also a marine, who did two tours in Vietnam), and they had a great life together until he died a few years back.  Obviously, she has a soft spot in her heart for veterans.

“Every time we talked to service people from our era, you would hear the same stories about how hard it was and the trials they had, and they didn't want that to happen ever again,” Sarlls said.

That's how she got the idea to organize Colorado's first and only statewide event to welcome home soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. She's calling it Colorado’s Yellow Ribbon Event, and its next month in Denver.

They're planning a big parade, and a ceremony to remember those killed.  But Paula and her fellow organizers also wanted to do something to help returning soldiers get back on their feet.

"And so we decided to do a job fair, because that's the number one thing troops need right now," Sarlls said.

Much has changed since her time in the Marines.  She was once kicked out of a business office while applying for a job.  The employer didn't want to hire a soldier.  So she’s hoping to help change that perception, and hoping to help returning Colorado soldiers get back to normal… after a big welcome home.

To learn more about the event Paula is organizing next month, Colorado's Yellow Ribbon Event, click here: http://www.coloradoyellowribbon.org/.

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