The yellow ribbon has a long history and is used for many reasons. You can wear a yellow ribbon symbol, display it on your vehicle or tie it around a tree.
Who can display a yellow ribbon? Anyone who “Supports Our Troops” can display it.
When the U.S. started sending a massive number of troops overseas during the Gulf War, yellow ribbons were more prominently displayed across the country.
It was an important symbol of the binding ties between loved ones, that was worn or displayed by women to remember their men who were serving overseas.
Although this visual display to show support for our troops is widely used, the yellow ribbon is also used for a variety of causes.
History of the Yellow Ribbon
The display of yellow ribbons started long before the Gulf War, going back hundreds of years.
Yellow Ribbon Songs
You may be familiar with the song, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” Dating back to the 17th century, it was updated by George A. Norton in 1917 and re-written by Leroy Parker & M. Ottner in 1949.
Several other musical artists also recorded the song through the years.
The original is about a young lady whose lover goes off to war. She keeps him in her mind every day. A recurring verse tells us:
“Round her neck she wears a yeller ribbon. She wears it in the Winter and the Summer so they say If you ask her, “Why the decoration?” She’ll say, “It’s fur my lover who is fur, fur away”
Another popular song that might be more familiar to you is “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.” Written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown in the 1970’s.
That song was quite popular during a time when the Vietnam war was coming to an end and many troops were returning home.
According to L. Russell Brown, “… The genesis of this idea came from the age old folk tale about a Union prisoner of war – who sent a letter to his girl that he was coming home from a confederate POW camp in Georgia …”
Iran Hostage Crisis and Yellow Ribbons
During the Iran hostage crisis, a campaign was started by Suzan E. Garret (Jaycees ladies service) to support the U.S. hostages by tying a yellow ribbon around public trees.
Penelope Laingen, wife of Bruce Laingen, one of the senior foreign offers being held hostage, tied a yellow ribbon around a tree in front of her home. The symbolism continued in support of the safe release of hostages and to celebrate their safe return home in 1981.
The Gulf War and Yellow Ribbons
In the 1990’s, yellow ribbons were once again on display during the Gulf War. Now, the yellow ribbons appeared with the phrase “support our troops.”
Yellow ribbons became a symbol of support during the 2003 Iraq invasion as well as the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and other countries around the world.
Yellow ribbons continue to be a symbol of support for troops. They can be displayed by those waiting for the return of a loved one who is serving or by anyone who supports the troops!