Author’s Note Appended

Last weekend, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate gave the keynote speech at the first National Tea Party Conference. It was a speech carried by many news channels and one that is still receiving a lot of attention. By now, the story is old: Sarah Palin glanced at some notes written on her hand during her speech and the subsequent question and answer section. The media and left-leaning critics have mocked her ceaselessly. Regardless, she got her message across: Anyone interested in politics across the country now knows her “three principles,” even if they didn’t pay attention to the speech. Well done.

It is not the reminder to “lift American spirits,” however, which has me most troubled or even the Tea Partiers who invited her to speak at their conference. Nor does it have anything to do with her left hand, upon which the notes were scribbled. What has me troubled is a black bracelet firmly clasped around her left wrist.

I hadn’t noticed it until I watched MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Tuesday, but it is a memorial bracelet; something familiar to veterans who have lost friends and family in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wear one commemorating a friend of mine who died in Baghdad in October of 2006, and I know many other veterans — and some still in the armed forces — who wear these bracelets as a reminder of the sacrifices their friends made on behalf of the units in which they served and the country they swore to protect.

There are many ways to commemorate soldiers; the reminders are everywhere. Yellow ribbons (or their magnetic counterparts) adorn cars and, occasionally, homes. Lapel pins and service flags — blue stars on a white background framed by a red border — grace the coats and homes of those with family members deployed at a war zone. As you might recall, Sarah Palin and Vice President Joe Biden both wore pins during the 2008 campaign. My parents displayed a double blue star during the holidays of 2008 when I was serving in Afghanistan and my brother was an Army officer in Iraq.

And for some soldiers, there is the gold star. It remains on the same white field and the flag has the same outline, but a gold star represents a family member killed in action — the most significant sacrifice one can make on behalf of their country.

This brings me back to my issue with Palin. The name on her black memorial bracelet — one, like the gold star, a demonstration of a friend or associate who was killed in action — is that of her oldest son, Track. Track served honorably in Iraq, and both he and his parents should be thanked for his selfless service to his country. He is also alive.

Commemorating Track’s service by wearing a a black memorial bracelet which is reserved for those dead or even a red bracelet for those missing in action, demonstrates a horrifying contempt for those who gave their last full measure of devotion or an almost unbelievable ignorance of the importance of symbols in American history.

Unfortunately, given Palin’s reputation and frequent public statements, I assume it is the latter.

Sarah Palin, please take off the bracelet. Be thankful you have no reason to wear it.

Eric Robinson is a first-year graduate student in international relations. He is a veteran of both the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan.

Author’s Note: In my column in the News Wednesday, I criticized former Alaska governor Sarah Palin for wearing a black memorial bracelet with her son’s name on it, as Track returned unharmed from Iraq last fall. However, Sarah Palin’s bracelet was not black; instead, it was a dark brown “DeployedHero” bracelet worn by those who have loved ones currently serving in the military. The bracelet is different from the black one associated with men and women who are killed in action overseas. Recognizing this, I apologize to the governor and to any reader who might have been misled by my piece. I hope that this serves as an important lesson for anyone interested in the importance of these symbols.