They've done that and more. Gullion's company, Magnet America, has sold more than a million of the ribbons at 55 cents to $3 a pop. He also markets custom ribbons for other causes, including pink ones for breast-cancer awareness. Magnet America donates a portion of its proceeds—at least $45,000 so far—to nonprofits that support soldiers. Sheri Stephens, founder of Operation We Care, a military support group, buys the decals in bulk to use for fund-raising: "We've raised enough money from the ribbons to send 5,000 care packages to the troops in Iraq."
Back in 2003, Smith, 43, who runs a printing business in King, N.C., read about a shortage of yellow ribbon around the country. "We brainstormed about how to put a yellow ribbon and a car magnet together," he says. After Smith and his staff designed the magnet, Gullion offered to market the ribbons. Buyers snapped them up and spread the word by simply driving around. Soon, Gullion was swamped with orders, and he and Smith are thrilled about that. "It's a patriotic thing," says Smith. "People like to show what they believe in."
Forget the old oak tree. Dwain Gullion and Chris Smith think the ideal spot for a yellow ribbon is on the back of your car. But the North Carolina duo behind the patriotic magnets stuck on vehicles from coast to coast can't believe the trend they've spawned. Says Gullion, 34: "We just wanted to help the troops in Iraq."