HeroBracelets program pays tribute to the fallen

Mary Wildes put on a HeroBracelet before her son, 18-year-old Pfc. Matthew Wildes, deployed to Iraq last May, but for some reason Mary could not take the bracelet off.

Wildes said she was going to take the bracelet off when Matthew returned from Iraq, but Wildes never got that chance.

Wildes saw her son when he took his leave in August, only 23 days before a roadside bomb killed Matthew in Iraq.

HeroBracelets offers Gold Star families a way to remember, and Wildes recently received her bracelet from the company.

HeroBracelets began in December 2004, as a way to raise money for families who lost loved ones in the war and honor the fallen, last week HeroBracelets began offering a free Memorial HeroBracelet to the first 150 Gold Star families who write to the company. It has garnered a positive response, HeroBracelet founder Chris Greta said.

Greta said when funds allow he would like to provide a bracelet to every Gold Star family in America.

"If we can afford to do it and maintain that operation, we're going to keep doing it as long as we can," Greta said.

"(HeroBracelet) has given myself and my family a tangible way to keep my brother with us," Lisa Haglof said. "By wearing a bracelet with his name, we take him everywhere with us. It also allows us to honor him and the cause for which he fought."

Haglof's brother, Staff Sgt. Matthew Pucino, was killed in November. in Afghanistan.

Two hundred HeroBracelets engraved with the names of the soldiers with the 467th Medical Detachment who were killed in the Nov. 5 shooting at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center were donated to the unit before they deployed in December, Greta said.

Greta runs the Ad Ranch in Austin, where HeroBracelets got its start.

The company initially donated $2 from every sale to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, but has since expanded the donation to other organizations of the buyer's choice. Those include Gold Star Moms or Blue Star Families. Two dollars from each Purple Heart HeroBracelet goes to the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

By Alicia Lacy

Fort Hood Her