Sarah Palin’s Black Wristband Faux Pas a Faux Controversy

Eric Robinson, a Yale IR grad student and veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, doesn’t give a hoot about what Sarah Palin had written on her hand at her Tea Party Convention speech. He is, however, concerned about what was on her wrist.

Sarah Palin Track Palin Wristband

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.

Aside from being slightly amused that my prediction that “We’re quickly running out of family-friendly parts of Sarah Palin’s body” is speedily nearing fruition, it’s an interesting controversy.

I’m a Desert Storm veteran and the son of a Vietnam veteran and, while I was aware of the traditions surrounding the yellow ribbons (Thank you, Tony Orlando!) and  gold and blue stars, was heretofore only vaguely aware of the black wristband — and then only because there was a minor kerfuffle when then-candidates Obama and McCain were both wearing them during the 2008 campaign.

As to Palin, it’s unclear what she was attempting to symbolize.   Certainly, she’s not trying to pretend that Track was killed in a war.   If nothing else, Andrew Sullivan would quickly launch an investigation.   So, maybe she was unaware of this (new?) tradition.   Or she mistook it for some other kind of black wristband that would have been appropriate for the occasion.   Doctor Google tells me there is a black “Hope, Courage, Faith” wristband being marketed, but it’s of the LiveStrong rubber variety.   There’s also various Christian-themed black wristbands to honor serving soldiers, but they are woven and look nothing like the one Palin is sporting.

Readers are invited to proffer their own guesses.

UPDATE:  In case the foregoing isn’t clear on this point, it doesn’t appear that Palin did anything untoward here.  Unlike some of the sillier anti-Palin memes (Sarah Palin’s legs and Sarah Palin’s toenails, etc.) this one does potentially touch a nerve as veterans can be exceedingly sensitive on the matter of honors.  We’ve seen this most recently with the exactment of, presumably unconstitutional, “stolen valor” laws, which criminally punish people who claiming military medals and the like to which they’re not entitled.

UPDATE II:  Several commenters link to various private sites selling black or blackish wristbands that honor living people for their service.  That’s not really meaningful.  Of course someone sold it, unless we’re to think Palin hand-crafted it herself.  That doesn’t address the protocol issue, if one exists.

One of those commenters links to another photo of Palin wearing what appears to be the same wristband in a different light and pronounces it “goldtone” rather than black.  That would seem relevant.

UPDATE III:  The verdict is in:  Palin is wearing something called a “Hero Bracelet,” marketed by a commercial vendor and apparently she and Joe Biden were given one gratis.  There is no tradition associated with said bracelets; like the various other “Support the Troops” paraphernalia for sale out there, they’re of recent origin.   Some of these are in black, although Palin’s isn’t — at least in full light. Robinson’s confusion would appear to be genuine — there is another recent convention of black bracelets to honor the fallen and Palin’s bracelet does look black in the photo above (reflecting her black jacket, no doubt) and, presumably, in the video he saw — but these are two different bracelets.   In any case, as noted in the original post, there was clearly no aim on Palin’s part to pretend her son had fallen in combat.

Link via Taegan Goddard. Photo: AP via Daylife.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. She got that bracelet from some dude whose soldier friend died. She wrote about it in Going Rogue

  2. Drew says:

    Here’s my guess.

    Eric, go put your head in the toilet and flush it.

  3. Also, just to add some commentary to my previous comment, must everything about her be a subject for this? No, seriously. Next thing we know, she wears black pantyhose instead of one that matches her skin tone and that it’s a sign she’s a loose woman. She was wearing dangling cross earrings during that one snowy book tour stop. OH MY GOD SHE’S A CHRISTIANIST!

    Enough already.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Jayvie,

    She got that bracelet from some dude whose soldier friend died. She wrote about it in Going Rogue

    That was my first thought, too, but if you look at the picture it clearly says “Track Palin.”

    I do agree with you, however, that this is a silly issue.

  5. Alex, you are right, and I’m a bit sorry I ran with it that quickly. *sigh* To continue the silly season for a sec, imagine how now, some blogger could claim that the bracelet she wrote about in Going Rogue doesn’t exist and that no evidence will be enough to refute that claim unless there’s a personal inspection by said blogger.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    I think I maybe have found it. Here is one with Track Palin. It is not black though. Here is a black one for someone who is not dead. Seems you can customize them and black is allowed for living soldiers.

  7. Maybe Track did die in Iraq and was replaced with a double. This could be the GOP version of the Paul is Dead meme! 😉

  8. Timetester says:

    Goodgrief

    It isn’t a black bracelet.

    It’s a goldtone supportive bracelet that can be purchased HERE at Memorial bracelets under the, what do you know, the “support” bracelets link

    Create your own supportive message bracelet or dog tag from a 100 sayings such as: Support our Troops, Forever in our Prayers, The United States Armed Forces, Operation Iraqi Freedom, USMC Semper Fi, Fallen Comrades, Freedom is Never Free, Gone but Not Forgotten, God be with Our Soldiers, My Fallen Comrades or Bring Them Home Safely.

    Eric appears to be from the kneejerk scrutinize Palin camp.

  9. Timetester says:

    or wait, perhaps it’s an active duty bracelet from the active duty support bracelets with messages available such as

    “KEEP MY DAUGHTER SAFE-IRAQ”

    or

    LCpl Hart, Jeffrey S. USMCR
    Operation Iraqi Freedom III
    March – October 2005

    Ya think?

  10. Timetester says:

    James

    I think it’s incumbent of you to point out in your post that here bracelet is not black, it’s goldtone, which is common for support, as this photo clearly shows.

    Sarah Palin image

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    From the comments to Eric Robinson’s post,

    About Ms. Palin’s HeroBracelet.

    We sent her those bracelets during the last election. When we learned that her son, Track and Senator Biden’s son were both being deployed overseas, we sent them both Deployed HeroBracelets with their son’s names.

    We’ve been providing Deployed HeroBracelets since 2004 for families to wear while their loved ones were serving. They can be made from sterling, copper, leather or bronze colored anodized aluminum (black is reserved for KIA).

    About half the bracelet we make are Deployed. Typically they will have the soldier or Marines rank, name, country of deployment and timeframe of deployment (2004/2005).

    So she isn’t out of line for wearing the Deployed HeroBracelet. There are ten’s of thousands of families around the country wearing them right now. On the HeroBracelets web site, we’ve got hundreds of letters from families, many vowing to not take the bracelet off till their loved one comes home.

    Chris Greta
    Director HeroBracelets.org
    http://www.herobracelets.org

    Whoops. In visiting the website there is a movie that plays and one young woman has a braclet that matches the on Palin has in terms of color.

    Drew’s right Robinson needs to put his head in the toilet and flush.

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    Scroll down and they have a post on their front page with the picture that spawned this idiocy from Eric Robinson, and another with Diane Sawyer.

  13. Brian Knapp says:

    Again, there are many other worthwhile reasons to oppose Palin’s policy stances or ideology…let’s concentrate on those.

    I think that it would be a stretch to say there was any malice or ill-intent here. Or that she did anything wrong at all.

  14. Steve Verdon says:

    Looks like she did nothing wrong at all here. The bracelet is not black, tens of thousands of others wear them, Biden has one, and Eric Robinson is a bonehead.

    You are right that there are plenty of really good reasons to oppose Palin for any sort of office. This is not one of them…unless you are a bonehead or a kook.

  15. Timetester says:

    Now why doesn’t the Yale News update their post to indicate Eric jumped to a conclusion without even checking rather than leave that buried in the comments?

  16. mpw280 says:

    Brian,
    Maybe its that people don’t care enough about the issues to educate themselves to the point of having a valid opinion or be able make a decent argument about them. It is much easier for follow Alinsky and just pick on small unimportant shit to tear down someone. A quick google image search should have been enough to tear this subject apart (I found several gold tone pics in 5 minutes), but alas the blogger couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t torn apart when it was put up here until responders did it. mpw

  17. Steve Verdon says:

    To make it even worse, same bracelet can be seen on one of her Newsweek cover photos.

  18. Ole_Sarge says:

    Thank-you for showing the site for the bracelets! We have several friends from our active duty days that now have kids in uniform. I think this is a great way to honor them.

    Really, is there anything more folks can dig up??? She resigned from being Governor because of the toll that fighting the slurs was taking.

    She’s now a private citizen, she can exercise “free speech” rights like you and I can. But the resignation may mean she never holds a political appointment or an elected office again.

  19. Tim says:

    This post should have been a constructive corrective for the young Mr. Robinson with links to official symbols (United States Flag, Blue Star/Gold Star Flag, POW/MIA bracelet, military medals, etc.), folk symbols (yellow ribbon), personal symbols (memorial jewelry), and the importance of knowing the protocol for official symbols. Comparing the display of official symbols

  20. Brian Knapp says:

    It is much easier for follow Alinsky and just pick on small unimportant shit to tear down someone.

    Yep. And I understand the urge; I’ve been guilty of this myself. But, it doesn’t make it a good practice.

    Looks like she did nothing wrong at all here.

    Yep again.

  21. Robert Gore says:

    Palin is not wearing the black bracelet. Look again! She’s wearing the annodized bronze bracelet. The bronze bracelet honors one who now serves not one who fell. Not all vets are honorable as Eric Robinson proves. CDR Robert Gore, USNR(ret).

  22. Wayne says:

    Thanks for the link Steve. That picture clearly shows it is bronze. It just shows how much under the microscope she is and how petty some are. Sad part is that many liberals will repeat this accusation in the future as if it is true when clearly it is false.

  23. Tim says:

    Joyner should correct the title and text stating the color is black and his second update claiming there is any sort of protocol associated with this “tradition” of personal jewelry.

    via HuffPo, CORRECTION: Palin’s bracelet is not black and is not meant to memorialize her son Track Palin, but rather to honor his service, according to Herobracelets.org.

  24. Alan Davidson says:

    It is BRONZE, not black.

    Non-Story, but proves beyond any doubt at this point that this woman is under attack and the Left will never stop until she is harmed in some way. I am just hoping Olby does a segment on his “Countdown” so as to nail the coffin on his credibility

  25. An Interested Party says:

    Of course this is an incredibly foolish “story” especially since the writer used incorrect information…still, I wonder how many people who are so quick to denounce this guy would also denounce the equally incorrect and silly “story” about the president supposedly “needing” a teleprompter to speak to school children…for all the talk about Palin Derangement Syndrome, Obama Derangement Syndrome is just as widespread…

  26. MissTammy says:

    I wear what I believe to be the exact same type of bracelet in honor of my very-much-alive nephew. Bought it here:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_A24UZctD–E/S3Mi__oVwlI/AAAAAAAABS4/xZKC1TGGbYY/s1600-h/Soldiers+Deployment+Bracelet.jpg

    Awaiting apology from you for this completely incorrect article, which insults all who wear this bracelet and exposes your complete lack of journalistic integrity while highlighting your inability to do basic research.

  27. SarahWW says:

    Why haven’t you fully corrected? She and Biden were given the bracelets to wear by http://www.herobracelets.org/, and in all pictures she is wearing that bracelet, the copper/bronze bracelet for currently deployed soldiers.

    It’s not a black memorial bracelet, and I don’t understand how anyone with eyes could confuse the point in good faith.
    http://www.herobracelets.org/?p=3256

    See also the Newsweek cover lately issued featuring Palin in running clothes.

  28. Wayne says:

    AIP
    I have seen conservative including myself stick up for Obama, Clinton and the likes when we thought they were unfairly attack. I have seen very few from the other side extend the same courtesy even something as obvious as this .

  29. Danielle says:

    If you had any honor you would take the post down.
    Not holding my breath.

  30. James Joyner says:

    If you had any honor you would take the post down.

    One doesn’t take posts down, one corrects any errors. In this case, the original was pretty clear: Palin wasn’t trying to claim that her son was dead, so either it was an innocent error (violating some tradition she didn’t know about) or it was some other sort of bracelet. In three updates, I explain that it was the latter.

  31. Timetester says:

    Robinson’s confusion would appear to be genuine

    You are kidding right? Or James Joyner is in favor of blog posts that, with no facts or FACT checking, accuse people of dishonorable actions out of confusion?

    It’s called verify, Joyner. If one is confused, they verify before accusing people of demonstrating

    “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.”

    and then disgracefully demand

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

    And “on gratis”? Do you think people are stupid? Nice word trick, “on gratis”… it was a GIFT! “On gratis” would be if Palin REQUESTED one and was given one free or complimentary. Vice President Biden was so moved by HIS gift his office called and thanked Herobracelets.org.

    Also, I do not know why you are equivocating but there is NO QUESTION as to the color of her bracelet as the woman who gifted it said it was NOT black.

    And as for protocol, it’s interesting that your hanging your hat on this. You’re ready to convict apparently millions of other families who wear this same deployment bracelets on protocol too?

    Just be honorable and note that Eric Robinson should have checked before he wrote a post accusing Palin of dishonor and besmirching her character.

    Now all he has done is besmirched his own and yours too.

  32. Chris Greta says:

    The story is really simple. HeroBracelets.org sent Gov. Palin Deployed HeroBracelets with her son’s name. We also sent bracelets to Sen. Biden honoring his son.

    That simple. Nobody was trying to pull a fast one and the gentleman who wrote the original story had no idea. I do wish he would have contacted us first!

  33. de stijl says:

    The tchotchkifaction of war has a long and honorable tradition.

  34. JHE says:

    It doesn’t even matter even if the braclet was black. She isn’t pretending her son was killed in the line of duty.

    Well, at least this highlights the incredible amounts of hate this woman puts up with.

  35. Orin T. says:

    “…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.”

    It is interesting to note that not only is mention made of the unit in which the fallen served, but that it is given pride of place. I wounder if it is beginning to dawn on some that by propping up the American Empire the are destroying the Republic they swore to protect.

  36. lol says:

    One doesn’t take posts down, one corrects any errors. In this case, the original was pretty clear: Palin wasn’t trying to claim that her son was dead, so either it was an innocent error (violating some tradition she didn’t know about) or it was some other sort of bracelet. In three updates, I explain that it was the latter.

    A delete comment button like on face book would be nice for those of us who ain’t good spelling people and say really dumb stuff from time to time.:)

  37. James Joyner says:

    A delete comment button like on face book would be nice for those of us who ain’t good spelling people and say really dumb stuff from time to time.:)

    Heh. I’ll see what I can do on the next site upgrade. The only problem with that is that comments themselves generate comments, so a deleted comment might make the rest of the thread confusing.

  38. anjin-san says:

    Well, at least this highlights the incredible amounts of hate this woman puts up with.

    If she generated less of it, she would probably receive less as well.

  39. Wayne says:

    James
    You and others made accusation based on assumptions .

    “As to Palin, it’s unclear what she was attempting to symbolize”

    “So, maybe she was unaware of this (new?) tradition.”

    Then you made a wordy correction in an update. What you and others should do is make a concise and clear apology. Something along the line of

    Palin was not wearing a black bracelet. We were wrong and she was in the right. I apologize for any contribution I made to this outrage toward her when clearly the accusation is false.

    Or you can try to play innocent and sweep it under the rug as many MSM do.

  40. Steve Verdon says:

    Wayne,

    Why should James’ apologize? He noted a story, posted the picture and wondered if the story had any merit (what was the barcelet, is the some sort of protocol for wrist bands, etc.). He never said that Palin was being dishonorable or bad by wearing the wrist band and invited readers to provide their own guesses…and guess what, we found the answer that clears Palin of any wrong doing and he posted it.

    Its done. Your side won, the truth won, be happy.

  41. Wayne says:

    Steve
    James gave himself some technical wiggle room but as I already pointed out; he talked about Palin as if she was guilty and came off like he thought she was. If he did not use Palin name and talk more in a general sense then it would have been ok. He didn’t.

    It would be like saying
    “James was accused of hitting his wife. I’m not sure of that.

    James should not let his frustration get to him. He shouldn’t hit his wife. If nothing else, Andrew Sullivan sould quickly launch an investigation. Basketball black eyes tend to be small and they look nothing like the one his wife is sporting.”

    Yes I didn’t directly accuse him of hitting his wife but sure sound like I implying it.

  42. James Joyner says:

    Wayne,

    I’m just not getting this analogy:

    James gave himself some technical wiggle room but as I already pointed out; he talked about Palin as if she was guilty and came off like he thought she was.

    I said this in the original post:

    I’m a Desert Storm veteran and the son of a Vietnam veteran and, while I was aware of the traditions surrounding the yellow ribbons (Thank you, Tony Orlando!) and gold and blue stars, was heretofore only vaguely aware of the black wristband — and then only because there was a minor kerfuffle when then-candidates Obama and McCain were both wearing them during the 2008 campaign.

    As to Palin, it’s unclear what she was attempting to symbolize. Certainly, she’s not trying to pretend that Track was killed in a war.

    So, I both dismissed the main complaint against Palin outright and said that, even if she was violating some new protocol about the use of black wristbands, it’d be understandable that she didn’t know about it.

    I had already Googled about the black wristband issue, too, and noted this:

    So, maybe she was unaware of this (new?) tradition. Or she mistook it for some other kind of black wristband that would have been appropriate for the occasion. Doctor Google tells me there is a black “Hope, Courage, Faith” wristband being marketed, but it’s of the LiveStrong rubber variety. There’s also various Christian-themed black wristbands to honor serving soldiers, but they are woven and look nothing like the one Palin is sporting.

    As it turned out, some company is making a fortune selling bracelets to people whose loved ones are away at war and gave freebies to Palin and Biden. Once I learned this, I updated the post accordingly.