Yellow ribbons signify encouragement for overseas troops

Annie Salamone

The reality of the war in Iraq has been stirring mixed feelings among Americans, leaving opinions escalating into a sort of political fervor that has left the country torn about the appropriate action for peace. In recognition of such conflicting interests, Americans have since tried to push aside such views to make room for a universal support that extends to all corners of the United States, as well as overseas. The display of yellow ribbons has surfaced throughout the country to demonstrate a general feeling of encouragement for American troops fighting the war in Iraq.

Recognizing this political fervor on Villanova’s campus, as well as the reality of the war on Iraq, Jean Gismervik, a senior at Villanova, prompted fellow studentsto embrace this patriotic spirit by being a part of the tradition. Indeed, her own experiences have led her to realize the importance of concentrating on the people you love rather than on the political point you are trying to make.

“I have a lot of friends in the military, some who are over in Iraq right now,” Gismervik said. “No matter how I feel about the war, I support and miss all of them.”

Contrary to popular belief, the tradition of displaying yellow ribbons has fairly recent, non-military roots, dating back to an ex-convict’s train ride home after having spent five years in prison. In one of the many letters he wrote to his community while serving his sentence, the man asked that, if they welcomed him back into their community, they should put a ribbon around a big apple tree right by the railroad track as a sign. The absence of the ribbon, then, would let the man know he should stay on the train and seek a new life elsewhere.

Being too afraid to look when he pulled up to the station, the man asked his companion to look for him, and much to his happiness, he saw the apple tree cloaked in ribbon, a sign of his community embracing his return.

During the summer of 1972, Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown copyrighted a song entitled “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree.” Making a comeback eight years later in 1981, the song inspired listeners to display their own yellow ribbons to support American hostages held in Iran, illustrating their hopes for the hostages to return safely. The war with Iraq has led the display of ribbons to resurface. On a universal level, the ribbons symbolize a feeling of support on the home front; on a more personal level, the ribbons express feelings of hope for a loved one’s

safe return home.”It’s as powerful a statement as you want to make it,” said Gismervik. “The more you wear yellow, the more other people will wear it, the more people will ask what it’s about.”

Indeed, Villanovans have risen up and above their own political feelings to support the troops.

The amount of funds raised has reached $200 and is being sent to the United Service Organization, who in turn uses it to meet requests made by the soldiers overseas, “like CDs, calling cards, baby wipes etc.,” says Gismervik. “We are still taking donations, and if you are part of a club, you can raise internally and donate through us.” The Villanova Singers, for example, did just that, and it was “really effective and greatly appreciated,” Gismervik added.

The motivation of Gismervik and The Oriental Club to participate in this patriotic practice stemed from the feelings that they were not doing their part in the international conflict . “There are so many points to argue and it is hard to feel comfortable in any stance.  But the worst feeling, for me, was feeling like I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Gismervik understands how inevitable conflicting views are, mentioning that “it’s impossible not to have conflicting views on the war.  Even if you support the war, you still don’t want people to die and if you support peace, you still don’t want injustices in Iraq to continue.” Her emphasis, then, is not on opinions, but rather compassions, understanding that the troops over in Iraq are mainly her peers.

Gismervik and her group are amazed at the committment they have seen throughout campus. “It seems as if everyone knows someone over there and we are all concerned because this is real, death is real,” said Gismervik said.

They hope that at least one day a week the Villanova campus will take time out to remeber those we are giving their lives for our freedom and the freedom of an opressed people.