America Supports You: 'Until They All Come Home' Bracelet Symbolizes Thanks
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2005 Bracelets engraved with "Until They All Come Home" were passed out to everyone close by at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here Jan. 21.
Elizabeth Johnston, founder of Mothers for Military Support,
chats with Army Spc. Joey Banegas, 22, during a visit with patients in
Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center's physical therapy section.
Looking on are Joe Spano Jr., left, president, Buy-Rite Inc., producer of the
"Until They All Come Home" bracelets, and Jeffery T. Dyer, Buy-Rite's senior
vice president for sales. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The plastic yellow bracelets serve as a symbol of patriotism as well as a symbol of thanks and support to the troops, according to their producer, Joe Spano Jr.
He collaborated on the bracelet idea with Marine Corps mom Elizabeth Johnston. Her son, Lance Cpl. Joseph C. Paul served in Iraq in 2003.
In a touching moment before he deployed in January 2003, Paul, now in the Marine Corps Reserve, said he told her, "Mom, just support all of us."
Johnston, of Longview, Wash., promised she would. In February 2003, she founded Mothers of Military Support, known as M.O.M.S., a non-profit organization to support troops and their families during deployment.
Spano, president of Buy-Rite Inc., said he was so overwhelmed after reading about Johnston and her son on the M.O.M.S. Web site that he wanted to do something to support the troops too. So he called Johnston and told her he wanted to produce a bracelet with the words "Until They All Come Home."
During his Jan. 21 Walter Reed visit to distribute the bracelets, Spano said Johnston's words "promised her son, Joe, that she would continue to help the service men and women until they all come home."
"Although that was not a tag line, I saw it as one," Spano noted. "I thought it just had a great ring to it. I think for someone to wear that on their wrist and see it every day is a reminder that they're not all home yet and it's going to be a long time before they are and let's not forget about them. It's too easy in our prosperity here to forget."
Armed with two large boxes of the yellow plastic wristbands, Spano said his mission to Washington was to attend to the "real important issue to get the message out."
"Right now, Iraq and Afghanistan are in the media every day, but there's going to come a day where something else is going to happen," he said. "And all of a sudden we forget very quickly, especially here in America where we have so much happening around us every day that it's very simple to forget people out there protecting us and allowing us to have those successes and prosperities in this country.
"My interest in doing these bracelets came from Elizabeth," he emphasized. "She comes to any conversation on any topic and it comes right back down to a discussion about our men and women in the military. Her passion for that is absolutely intoxicating, and you can just not help but want to help out in some way, if at all possible."
"Let's remember the troops, he added, "until they all come home."
At Walter Reed's physical therapy department, Spano gave a bracelet to Army Spc. Joey Banegas, 22, of Hatch, N.M., who was wounded in Afghanistan on Oct. 14.
"I'd seen people with them, but I wasn't sure of what they were," said Banegas, who was serving with the 25th Infantry Division. "It's good that people recognize and realize that the troops are out there and are actually waiting for them to come home," he noted. "It shows that we have a lot more support than we expected to have in the beginning.
"It makes you feel good inside because it shows that you're appreciated and that people respect you for doing what you do."
Tammy Johnson, mother of Army Spc. Chad Johnson, 21, of Lockhart, Texas, said, "I haven't seen these bracelets before, but I have mine (now)."
As she put the yellow plastic bracelet on her left wrist, she noted "this means that somebody is looking out for our soldiers and they really care. If our soldiers over there know that we really care, they can do their job a lot better and maybe protect themselves more and come home to us."
Her son arrived at Walter Reed on Oct. 9 from Landstuhl (Germany) Regional Medical Center. He had served with the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq.
The bracelets represent support to the troops, he said, and are "a consistent reminder when you look at it on your wrist to remember where you are, where you live and who supports the freedom."
"When Joe approached me about doing the bracelets," M.O.M.S' Johnston noted, "he said he believes in M.O.M.S., and that working as a team would be much more powerful than working separately to show our support for the troops nationally."
She said Spano's company has produced 480,000 bracelets. Spano explained that M.O.M.S. gets 10 percent of all proceeds and he also contributes funds personally to support the troops. "This has become a personal passion for him," she noted.
M.O.M.S. has sent hundreds of "care packs" to servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each 1-gallon plastic bag is loaded with such things as lip balm, phone cards, disposable cameras, beef jerky, anti-bacterial soap, dental floss, music CDs, playing cards and a host of other items.