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History of the Yellow Ribbon

The custom of tying a yellow ribbon around a tree to symbolize the longing for a distant love dates back to Emperor Nero’s time. The first examples have been found in a Pompeian villa where there is a fresco depicting a man standing by a tree around which is wrapped a yellow ribbon. This is related in a 2011 documentary about the Roman city buried during the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

A folk song

In the US Army the symbol of the yellow ribbon made its first appearance in a folk song. The first copyrighted version was George
A. Norton’s "Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon” (For Her Lover Who Is Far, Far Away).

Conflicts in the Middle East

ONE OF THE FIRST “YELLOW ribbons” in recent times was waived by Penne Laingen when her husband Bruce, a US diplomatic, was held captive  during the hostage crisis in Iran. During the crisis the ribbon was used to symbolize the support to the hostages held in the USA Embassy in Teheran. This custom was started in 1979 by Penelope Laingen, wife of the most senior officer held hostage, when she tied  a yellow ribbon around a tree in her home garden in Maryland.  The ribbon meant to symbolize the American people’s determination to get the hostages released unharmed, and it was shown with a huge amount of emphasis during the welcome home  celebrations in January 1981. The yellow ribbon experienced a revived popularity in the USA during the Gulf War in the early 90’s. It appeared together with the slogan: “Support our Troops” written on yellow ribbons tied around trees, and in a number of other occasions. It often implied  the idea  of supporting the very deployment of troops in Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations, and/or of expressing loyalty to President George Bush; it therefore acquired a clear political connotation. It appeared again during the Iraqi invasion in 2003 with similar meanings, especially in the form of a yellow ribbon printed on magnets displayed on vehicles.