Washingtonians of the Year 2007: Jim Bugg

For 36 years, The Washingtonian has honored men and women who give their time and talents to make this a better place for all of us. They find ways to enrich the lives of everyone they touch.

By: Leslie Milk, Ellen Ryan

Late in 2004, Jim Bugg heard from a pal about a discussion the pal’s Marine son had at Thanksgiving dinner.

Wounded Marines from Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center had talked turkey: Servicemembers in Washington for medical treatment needed transportation around town and long-term lodging for family members.

Inspired, Bugg founded the Yellow Ribbon Fund to further fill their needs. He has taken wounded soldiers out to golf, hunt, fish, and dine. Some 120 volunteers babysit, drive, shop, collect frequent-flyer miles, and raise money—$1.5 million so far. They’re building a playground and barbecue patio at Walter Reed and negotiated hotel and apartment use for military families at cost. The government will pay to fly in and put up three of an injured soldier’s immediate relatives for one visit. But many servicemembers stay 12 to 18 months in recovery. That’s a lot of time to go without family support—or have that family stuck in one room with few options.

Bugg, uninjured as an Army Air Corps cadet in World War II, has the time and the connections—he’s retired as CEO of Interiors by Decorating Den—to lead the effort. Locally, friends have donated hundreds of sports and theater tickets. The outings, mentoring, and family support all help people with shattered lives see new possibilities. He’s also building a nationwide network so at least one volunteer per state can help a soldier, once back home, seek a job, get into school, or find psychological services.

“We are going through the most difficult times of our lives,” wrote the family of a double amputee, “and there is no way that we would be able to make it without your help.”

“Even if the war ends today, these kids aren’t going to be healed,” Bugg notes. “The Yellow Ribbon Fund has a good ten years ahead of it.”