Yellow Ribbons

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lee Murphy
  • 117th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

 “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” performed by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando was one of the biggest hits of the 1970s. It cracked the Top 10 in 10 countries, and took the top spot in eight of those when it was released in 1973. Many of us know the chorus, “tie a yellow ribbon 'round the ole oak tree, it's been three long years, do you still want me?” Even now, it remains an extremely catchy tune that still sees frequent airplay. 

Yet, many don’t know what the song is actually referencing and how the symbol of the tied yellow ribbon is used today. 

During the Civil War, American families tied yellow ribbons for loved ones who were absent. In today’s culture, it is closely linked to military service members who have deployed overseas. 

Nowhere is this more evident than the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, a Department of Defense initiative to support service members who are in the process of deploying or are returning from a deployment. 

Originally conceived for service members who have families at home, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program has recently been opened up to provide support to all those who are leaving, those who are absent, and those who are returning home. 

“There are so many people that don’t have resources or don’t want to reach out,” said Carly Coyne, the 117th Air Refueling Wing Yellow Ribbon Support Specialist. 

Coyne said leaving everything and everyone at home, essentially putting your entire life on hold, to go and serve your country can be extremely difficult for service members. The Yellow Ribbon Program helps to alleviate the issues they face when readjusting to everyday life back home.

Even though the program focuses on the problems service members might have with deployments, the effects of a tour overseas can have far-reaching effects. 

“You just don’t know, even if their spouse is sitting there right next to them, what they’ve been through,” said Coyne. “It’s not only affecting the service member, who feels like they don’t have anyone to reach out to, but their family and friends as well.”

This Veteran’s Day, as we hold all members who have ever served in our military close to our hearts, we should also remember the sacrifices families make each day all across the nation. 

We will remember those who are gone and those who are left behind; the families that will tie another yellow ribbon on Nov. 12, waiting for the day when they will see the faces of their loved ones again.