Over the weekend, I took a ride down to Pembroke to see what was happening with the fracas over yellow ribbons at a condo development. In my New York Sun column, I also recite the history of the yellow ribbon as an American symbol; the Library of Congress provides a more extensive history. I also spoke to the men leading the fight down there, Francis Gaeta and Ronald Dowd.
“Over the last three decades, yellow ribbons have emerged as a powerful patriotic symbol. During the Gulf War, soldiers’ families put them up to honor their loved ones. When Iranians occupied America’s embassy in Iran, they were used to mark the absence of the Americans held hostage.
The lyrics of a Tony Orlando and Dawn song ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,’ tell of a convict returning from prison looking to see if his girlfriend displayed a sign that she still loved him, a yellow ribbon.
Mr. Gaeta, at age 75, remembers seeing the John Ford western film starring John Wayne, ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,’ which depicts the American cavalry’s fights in the west, and includes a song of the same name. The song’s words reflect the importance of the yellow ribbon to remember troops at war: ‘Around her hair she wore a yellow ribbon … She wore it for her soldier who was far, far away.’
History aside, the condo association, whose rules govern life in Barker Square, wants the ribbons removed. ‘While ribbons may be fixed to doors or incorporated into door decorations, they are not permitted on the columns,’ says the letter that was sent to Mr. Gaeta. A neighbor and member of the association, Mary Doller, maintains that the edict “is not anti-patriotic” and insists ‘if you live in a condo association, you have to follow the rules.’ The yellow ribbon faction counters that proposed compromises render the ribbons invisible.