I’m always getting asked about the silver bracelet I’ve worn on my right wrist for the last 30+ years. If fact, I’ve worn four different ones since 1986, but the one I’ve been wearing for the last several years is the one closest to my heart.
The bracelet is to remember and help raise awareness of fallen or missing service members, and started in the late 1960’s and carries on through today.
The first bracelet was purchased in 1986 from Clothing & Sales on Parris Island, but I didn’t like the way it rubbed my wrist, so I didn’t wear it for very long. I’ve since lost track of it over the years.
The second bracelet I purchased from the main PX on Fort Knox in the early 1990’s, and wore it continuously until I gave it to my roommate, Robert Svoboda (“Boda”) when he left active duty for ROTC in Boston in 1994. I remember dropping him off at the airport, and telling him not to forget me as I handed it to him. He hasn’t forgotten me, and we still talk every so often.
I got the next bracelet I would wear for well over 20-plus years the same day I gave mine to Boda once I got back to base.
LtCol Charles J. Ramsey was declared MIA from South Viet Nam on 21 Jan 1968. I had planned on sending this bracelet, along with a letter, to his wife once he was returned home, but wasn’t able to locate her in any databases, so I continued wearing it in remembrance until a few years ago. LtCol Charles J. Ramsey’s remains were repatriated on January 1, 1998 and positively identified on July 19, 2001.
It was while talking to Boda one day a few years ago that we were remembering Brad, when he told me he had a bracelet for him. I asked him to send it to me, and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I came to know Brad Svoboda after getting my final discharge in 1995 from active duty, and had moved to Boston after several conversations with Boda. I met Brad while visiting Boda one day, and we became friends immediately. He and I were both computer/game geeks, and we would geek out over computer games and other computer stuff every time we saw each other. I remember visiting Boda one day, and Brad introduced me to Myst – complete with a cheats book he had printed out and kept in a 2″ binder. Everyone was surprised that I had stayed up the entire night and into the next morning, still playing it. The only person not surprised was Brad – he just looked at me and smiled like the Cheshire Cat.
Once I moved out of Boston a year or so later, we didn’t keep in contact, but I kept up on his progress in life through Boda.
I heard about Brad getting killed in Panama on a Facebook post, and the shock took several days to wear off. While we weren’t “best friends”, we shared a Brotherhood through military service, and his brother was literally my roommate for a few years in the US Army, and still a good friend to this day. Brad was too young to be taken from this world this soon. He had too much going for him, and too many things yet to accomplish.
This is the last bracelet I will wear, and when I pass on, it will be buried with me, still on my wrist.