The Marine Corps ended its controversial ban on bracelets honoring U.S. troops killed in combat. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos announced a lift on the ban Tuesday allowing marines in uniform to wear the Killed in Action (KIA) bracelets that bear the names of the fallen in Afghanistan, Iraq or other combat zones.
Under the service’s stringent uniform regulations, the bracelets were considered authorized jewelry. However, the Marine Corps Times reports that the enforcement wasn’t consistent and Marines expressed indignation and frustration with the ban.
"We are acknowledging the close personal nature of our 10 years at war and the strong bonds of fidelity that Marines have for one another, especially for those fellow Marines who we have lost," Amos said.
Varying in design, the bracelets come in either metal or rubber but most are metal. They are similar to the bracelets commemorating prisoners of war and troops missing in action. For example, POW/MIA bracelets have been authorized under the Marine Corps’ uniform regulations dating back to the Vietnam War. More than 82,000 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for going back to World War II.
Military leaders feel the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq differ from past wars since they have not produced such astounding numbers of POW and MIA cases.
"In different wars, there were so many POWs and so many missing in action -- that was something they allowed Marines to do, maybe for morale, so that they would always remember," said Sgt. Megan Cavanaugh in USA Today, who is assigned to the Marine Senate Liaison Office in Washington, D.C. "But in our time, we don't have a lot of missing in action. We don't have a lot of prisoners of war."
"The meaning of KIA bracelets today is the same as the meaning of POW/MIA bracelets during past conflicts, Cavanaugh said. They honor those who didn't come home."
"There are few ways to make the loss of a Marine bearable," she said. "But memorializing them seems to help."
Authorization to wear the bracelets was immediately effective. The bracelet prohibition has been the same for men and women in the Marine Corps, a force of some 202,000 that is only 6 percent female.