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Display a yellow ribbon to support our troops

Yellow ribbons are a common way to show support for our troops and you don’t need to be a military family member to display one!...

Yellow ribbons are a common way to support our troops. During my son’s first deployment, my unwavering support for his service and hope for his safe return included displaying a yellow ribbon symbol on my car and wearing a yellow ribbon pin.

You may have seen homes with yellow ribbons tied around a tree in the front yard. I love seeing others supporting our troops! 

You don’t need to be a military family member to display a yellow ribbon. Anyone who supports our troops can display one. It’s a wonderful way to share your pride for our soldiers too! 

Yellow ribbons have an interesting history and are used for a variety of causes that go beyond support for our troops.

How did the yellow-ribbon tradition start?

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. The United States Jaycees was an all-male civic organization that later admitted full membership to women.

Penelope Laingen, the wife of Bruce Laingen, one of the senior foreign officers 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

yellow ribbons military
Soldiers of the Oregon National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team meet with military benefit organizations at the Yellow Ribbon Career and Benefits Fair held at Clackamas Community College on June 26. The organizations informed the soldiers of the programs for veterans. The soldiers had recently returned from a deployment in Iraq. (Photo by Spc. Anita Stratton/41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team)

When the U.S. started sending a massive number of troops overseas during the Gulf War, yellow ribbons were prominently displayed across the country now appearing alongside the phrase “support our troops.”

It was an important symbol of the binding ties between loved ones. They were worn or displayed by women to remember their men who were serving overseas.

Yellow ribbons became a symbol of support during the 2003 Iraq War as well as the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and other countries around the world.

Related: How US Special Operations Forces Helped Win the Gulf War

Remember these 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 have 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.” It was written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown and released by Tony Orlando and Dawn in 1973.

The song sold three million records (yes, we used to listen to records) within three weeks. It was no surprise that “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” reached the No.1 Billboard spot. I remember those days of hanging out at the record store and looking through record albums, long before CDs. 

The pop trio “Tonry Orlando and Dawn.” (Arista Records)

That song was quite popular during a time when the Vietnam war was coming to an end and many troops were returning home. But it didn’t end there and was played for 17 years, maintaining a position on the charts. 

It is an upbeat, fun song that we enjoyed dancing to. 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.”

I have sweet memories of listening to that song as it brings me back to another moment in time, long before my soldier was born.

Support our troops

And that’s how yellow ribbons became a symbol of support and hope for our 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!

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