Air Force staff sergeant repurposes old uniforms into holiday wreaths

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An Air Force staff sergeant is brightening up the holidays by transforming old military uniforms into patriotic wreaths, each of which “tells a story.”

After the U.S. Air Force made a recent switch to new daily wear uniforms, Staff Sgt. Nicole Pompei, 29, of Texas wasn’t going to just stuff the old uniforms into a closet where they would take up space and collect dust.

So she came up with the idea of fashioning them into patriotic holiday decorations via her company, Wreaths by Nicole, which she launched in July.

“I started the business because the Air Force was switching over to new uniforms, and I wanted to find a cool way to memorialize my old ones,” Pompei told People magazine. “Thanks to some help from my crafty mother, we came up with this design.”

Currently on active duty with the Air Force after first serving a stint with the Marine Corps, Pompei hand-makes her wreaths in various sizes and designs. Some of them are patriotic in nature featuring the stars and stripes, while others reflect more of a holiday theme. She told the magazine that it takes about four hours to make each wreath.

And earlier in December, she said she also made a wreath for a customer who sent in three uniforms from 1946.

“This was the second time I’ve received uniforms that were almost 80 years old,” she noted on Facebook. “I almost didn’t have the heart to cut them. I’m happy I did. Now they have a blended memento that they can hold with them for a lifetime.”

The San Antonio-based staff sergeant told People it was never her intention to create a business out of making her wreaths. But she said after showing friends some of her early designs, her Facebook inbox was inundated with requests from several who wanted one for themselves.

“I was thinking of a cool way to memorialize my old Air Force ABU’s (Airman Battle Uniforms),” Pompei said in a separate interview with KENS-TV. “A friend on a Facebook page recommended I try to make a wreath. When I went to visit my mom in July, we came up with a way to create the wreath. I had posted my creation on that same Facebook page after completing it, and 20 people commented, begging me to make one.”

“The most rewarding part is hearing all of the stories of my customers and their family members,” she added. “I feel so honored that I can memorialize and honor their service. I have such respect for anybody who has served in the military.”

Pompei said people who get one of her creations also feel a profound sense of reward.

“I often joke that my motto should be, ‘Wreaths by Nicole P — Making moms cry since July 2020,’” she told the local station. “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had customers tell me the recipient began crying from being so overwhelmed with their gift.

“Each wreath tells a story, and that’s my favorite part about it,” she added.

“People have been so kind with uniform donations of all sorts, especially female veterans. Everyone has been so supportive and has so many kind words to say about my wreaths,” Pompei told KENS- TV. “It also hits home on a personal level, since the original one was created with my mother.”


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