My bracelet broke today. I have worn it almost everyday for four years. Etched on the black surface are the names and dates of the two Troopers from Fox Troop that we lost during my last deployment. If you see a Veteran with a black bracelet, chances are he or she is wearing it to memorialize a Soldier, Sailor, Airmen or Marine who fell during combat. I guess it is a subtle way of wearing your heart on your sleeve.
My bracelet literally fell off my wrist this afternoon. It was a simple aluminum band, and I guess I fidgeted with it a bunch since it developed a stress crack and broke. When it did finally break and fall, I took a few moments to reflect and ask questions:
Is there some symbolism that I will start tomorrow, September 11th, not wearing it?
Was it a message to maybe, after these five years, let go a little more?
As I sit here and type this, the tan lines on my wrist are stark. It feels wrong to not have it on. I rarely take off my wedding band, but when I do, it feels awkward. (At that point, I usually stop spinning it on the table in front of me, and put it back on.) I am still up in the air if I will get another one, or go without it.
I have always carried small reminders with me of my missions or goals. Coins, scraps of paper, pictures, and tokens all became homemade talismans that gave me luck and strength and courage. Over time, some were lost or replaced, some had their meaning shift. But they were always there in my pockets, around my neck, or pinned out of sight.
On the eve of September 11th a particular set of Talismans is worth noting. Being a Long Island kid, September 11th impacted my family greatly. On my Mother’s side, family members who worked in the towers got out. On my Father’s side, we were struck with tragedy. Two of my father’s cousins, like Uncles to me, were eating brunch at windows on the world when the planes struck. A voicemail message saying goodbye was the last we heard from them.
On September 11th I was a 2nd Lieutenant on a machine gun range in Georgia. I scrambled to get in touch with my family back in NY. When I finally did and the dust settled, I traveled back for the memorial. The mass cards from their funeral and pictures of me at my graduation with them were added to the collection. Another token, from my Uncle who walked home over the Brooklyn Bridge that fateful day, was a reflective sticker of the World Trade Center with an American flag. It was from my Uncle, a survivor, and sacred to me.
These holy talismans ventured through the swamps of Florida in Ranger school, through the monsoons and snow of Korea, and twice through the deserts in Iraq. I felt they kept me safe and they were always there for inspiration in those moments when focus was needed.
Since coming back from Iraq, they found a place on my bookshelf with my journals and field notes and I transitioned to donning the black bracelet to remember those I served with and as a reminder to always honor what they lived and died for.
Tomorrow I will honor all of them in my own way. In doing so, I hope to continue my treatment by exploring the emotions and the experiences for the better. I will remember the good of those that left us that day and since. I will not avoid the conversations or images. And, I will allow myself to feel the sorrow and grief, but I will not let it consume me.
After that, maybe it will be time for some more talismans. Never forget. Gone, but not forgotten.