Area Marines cheer repeal of Corps policy banning memorial bracelets

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comOctober 21, 2011 

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Beaufort-area Marines cheered the repeal this week of a policy banning them from wearing bracelets memorializing friends and colleagues killed in action while in uniform.

Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos approved the wearing of the popular rubber or metal KIA bracelets by Marines in uniform after meeting with senior leaders at a Marine Corps General Officer Symposium, a group of general officers who make recommendations to the Commandant, Corps officials said.

"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 in a statement.

The new policy went into effect immediately, according to the Corps.

The uniform regulation overturned by Amos this week did not specifically mention KIA bracelets among jewelry authorized for wear. The uniform policy allows Marines to wear watches, but they must be inconspicuous; necklaces must be worn inside the uniform and not visible; men can't wear earrings, though women can wear one per ear. Both sexes can wear inconspicuous rings -- one to a hand but not on their thumbs.

Though not technically allowed, some Marines, including senior officers, have been wearing the KIA bracelets while in uniform, and some but not all commanders have been telling them to stop, according to a report in the Marine Corps Times.

The decision to allow the bracelets to be worn was seen as good news to local Marines like Gunnery Sgt. Michael Tallent, a 33-year-old administrative chief assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

For the last five years, Tallent has worn a bracelet given to him by a fellow Marine honoring Marine Capt. Robert Avery, a North Carolina native and fighter pilot who disappeared after flying a bombing mission over North Vietnam in May 1968.

Avery is still unaccounted for, according to Pentagon records.

Bracelets like Tallent's are allowed under an order by the Navy Secretary in 1972, which allowed POW/MIA bracelets to be worn "as an expression of concern for their fellow servicemen who are prisoners of war or missing in action."

Tallent said the KIA bracelets send a similar message.

"It's important that we remember those who have fallen or are still missing in action from previous conflicts and remember the sacrifices they made so that we can be where we are today," Tallent said.

A spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island declined to make depot Marines available for interview this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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