Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska News


Tie A Yellow Ribbon... Show Your Support
Support Our Troops Rally Announced For Friday
by M.C. Kauffman


April 02, 2003
Wednesday - 10:50 pm

Tie a yellow ribbon...

Vicki Pilcher, 16, of Ketchikan ties a yellow ribbon in a tree to show support for her brother, Sgt. Zack Pilcher, USMC.
Photo by Gigi Pilcher for Sitnews

Ketchikan, AK - Bright yellow ribbons are being displayed across our country and in Ketchikan. Just look around and you might see yellow ribbons hanging from a front door, from a mailbox, from a fence, or wrapped around a tree. And why all these yellow ribbons?

Yellow ribbons are symbols of hope for the safe return of our troops from the war in Iraq and show support for our American troops. Yellow ribbons also express to the troops' wives and families that Americans care for their sons and daughters who are in service to our country.

The custom of tying yellow ribbons to welcome home those who have been away for a long time under adverse or particularly difficult circumstances, such as war, is a relatively new tradition. Debate still continues on just exactly how the yellow ribbon custom actually began. According to the late Gerald E. Parsons, a longtime librarian of the Folklife Reading Room of the Library of Congress and also the author of "How the Yellow Ribbon Became a National Folk Symbol", the custom didn't exist at all before 1981. It was then that the idea of displaying yellow ribbons to welcome home the 52 Americans held hostage by Iranian militants seemingly emerged from nowhere and took the country by storm. This tribute was said to be inspired by the popular song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," a song which was composed in 1972 - which in turn was inspired by an oral folktale circulating since the 1950s.

The 1972 lyrics of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," and the folktale on which the lyrics were based, tell the story of the paroled convict's prospective homecoming - not that of a soldier stationed abroad. Similarly, the Iran hostage crisis involved civilians held captive on foreign soil as opposed to military personnel in combat. But once the basic connection had been drawn between the plight of Americans endangered in overseas conflicts and displaying yellow ribbons as a form of tribute, the stage was set for a broader application - first in 1991 as a tribute to the troops who fought in the Gulf War, and now, 12 years later, yellow ribbons are displayed as a tribute to American forces sent back to the Gulf and Iraq to effect a "regime change."

"Ultimately," Parsons wrote, "the thing that makes the yellow ribbon a genuinely traditional symbol is neither its age nor its putative association with the American Civil War, but rather its capacity to take on new meanings, to fit new needs and, in a word, to evolve."

If you would like a yellow ribbon, Arlindo Machado who is organizing a 'Support Our Troops' rally for Friday said they will be handing out yellow ribbons. The 'Support Our Troops' rally is scheduled for April 4th from 3:30pm - 5:30 pm at the tunnel located in downtown Ketchikan. The public is invited to participate in the 'Support Our Troops' rally - bring your flags, your enthusiasm and 'Support Our Troops' posters. Machado also requested that families who have sons and daughters in the military bring photographs for publication on 'Our Troops'. Photographs and information can also be e-mailed to for publication.


For More Information:

How the Yellow Ribbon Became a National Folk Symbol by Gerald E. Parsons - American Folklife Center - The Library of Congress

Yellow Ribbons: Ties with Tradition by Gerald E. Parsons - American Folklife Center - The Library of Congress

Tie A Yellow Ribbon - Music & Lyrics:

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