Mom's bracelet becomes symbol.

Tags: HeroStories

We just found this story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Senator Barack Obama and his HeroBracelet.


Tracy Jopek just wanted Barack Obama to know the name of her son Ryan, who died fighting in Iraq.

The Democratic presidential hopeful wears the bracelet given to him by Jopek, of Merrill, Wis.

Now Obama does, and he shared it with the nation Tuesday night.

In a nationally televised speech after his victory in Wisconsin, Obama told a Texas crowd how Jopek gave him a bracelet honoring her son during a stop in Green Bay on Friday.

"We're here because of the mother I met in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who gave me this bracelet that I'm wearing. Inscribed on it is the name of her son Ryan. Next to his name it says, 'He gave,' " Obama said before choking up. " 'All gave some but he gave all.'

"We are here because it is time to ask ourselves as a nation if we are serving Ryan and his compatriots and all our young brave men and women as well as they are serving us. They need us to end this war and bring them home and give them the care and the benefits that they deserve."

Jopek said she has supported Obama since he declared his candidacy, and she went to Green Bay determined to give him the bracelet, created after Ryan, 20, died in 2006.

"Whatever the choices are in the future, we leave or we stay, I wanted him to know it affects real people in real places," Jopek said from her home in Merrill, north of Wausau, on Tuesday night. "I believe he will lead us in the right direction, he will tell us the truth and be upfront and honest with us.

"These guys in uniforms, they do the job the best they can every day. I want him to live up to those ideals that they have, and I do believe he will do that."

Ryan Jopek followed his father into the Wisconsin National Guard, shipping out for basic training right after high school graduation. He deployed to Iraq in 2005, following his father, who had deployed there earlier.

Ryan Jopek was two weeks from going home when he volunteered for a mission and was killed by a roadside bomb. He is survived by his parents; younger sister, Jessica; and younger brother, Steve.

Last Friday, Tracy Jopek and Jessica Jopek headed to Green Bay to hear Obama speak and in hopes of delivering the bracelet. They waited outside in the cold for 45 minutes, both suffering through severe head colds.

Tracy Jopek asked a campaign worker how she could get the bracelet to Obama, and then she broke down crying. Soon she was meeting the candidate himself. And she broke down again. Obama hugged her, and they met for about five minutes.

"I didn't get to say what I wanted to say. I just cried," she said. "It wasn't for anything but for him to know this is real, something he needed to know. . . I do believe (the war) needs to end, but I believe it needs to be done very carefully and very thoughtfully."

Tracy Jopek was watching Obama's speech Tuesday and had no idea he would mention her son. She said his speech hit just the right tone she was trying to send by giving him the bracelet.

"I couldn't believe it. It was such an honor, such an honor," she said, her voice breaking. "To know that he does know his name. It means a lot."