Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Message 2016

This holiday is always a somber one for me.  This history of Memorial Day is interesting as well.

My suggestion for this Memorial Day is to learn how to make a cord bracelet in the memory of someone you know/knew … and then give it away.  This is much in the same mood as the Vietnam era metal POW-MIA remembrance bracelets, which I remember from when I was younger.  Let’s remember all the people who served as well those who are serving now including their spouses and children.  We can make Memorial Day one of remembrance and healing.  

Bracelets go a way back in the military, with wrist dog tag bracelets being issued as early as the Spanish American War and then later into WWI.  The tradition of knotted cord bracelets in the Navy goes back a good deal farther.  Sailors made knotted items in their spare time and one of the things they made to show their skill were bracelets.  Those earlier type bracelets didn’t necessarily have a military association and they were generally nautical work.

My father, Iwo Jima
WWII saw jewelry makers produce men’s ID bracelets in sterling and they were very popular.  Many had the owner’s name engraved on the front and the back and possibly branch of service or a specialty insignia, such as pilot’s wings or the Marine Corps logo.  They were popular gifts to from women and from men as well.  Sterling ID bracelets continued to be popular after WWII and were very commonly worn up until the late 1960s.  The military forms powerful bonds of brotherhood and military members gave tokens to each other such as a dog tag exchange, or personalized gifts such as sterling ID bracelets in WWII

The Vietnam War saw implementation of the original POW/MIAmetal bracelets I referred to previously, with the missing or prisoner’s name on the bracelet.  The idea was to remember the person until they were released or their remains identified. See also

More recently, parachute cord bracelets may have been around early as WWII because the cord was available to many military members, not just those in paratrooper units and aviators.  The cord had many uses and GIs scrounged the cord for a multitude of uses.  The Vietnam War perhaps also saw the modest use of parachute cord bracelets, but I have not been successful in finding any examples.
I've always liked this image of Winston enjoying a Tommy Gun moment

Certainly parachute cord bracelets, in the form we have become familiar with begins to appear about 1980, although I personally can’t date exactly when I saw the first one.  Originally they were buddy bracelets and were woven permanently on a person’s arm by their buddy and were not removable.   Later ones, used a BDU button to make it removable, probably because some commands didn’t allow the bracelet for a number of reasons, some of which might have been safety.

By the late 1980s I began to see parachute cord bracelets that had a plastic latch buckle, a miniature version of the type used on military combat belts.  Now paracord bracelets are in a variety of colors, for a variety of causes and are not always associated with the military.  The utility of having 8 to 10 feet of 550 pound test nylon multistrand cord handily around your wrist appealed to survivalists, hikers and folks who just liked being prepared. 

A fairly good-sized cottage industry has grown up making and selling paracord bracelets at flea markets, gun shows, and through the internet for a variety of causes in a variety of colors.  Rather than be a fashion accessory, let it be a symbol of caring.  It doesn’t matter if you have never been in the military yourself, make one and give it to somebody who was or is in the military or their spouse or children.  The gesture of giving something you have personally made means far more than you think.   Let’s put the memory back into Memorial Day.  This isn’t about supporting war or being against war, it’s about supporting people.

Here are some guides on making a paracord bracelet for yourself or for others:

Washington Navy Yard Museum (National Museum of the US Navy) in Washington DC has perhaps the earliest bracelet as from the sinking of the Maine.

How to make turkshead knot work bracelet 

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