Utah to Arizona #9, Cheerios Necklace, Endangered Species and POW Bracelet

For the second time I was going through collected old jewelry from when I was a teenager. Moving to Arizona is my opportunity to “lighten” physical and emotional loads, but I have discovered that just like creative personal writing that gets to the bone of the a subject, it usually only gets there after being revised several times.

The Cheerios necklace made with pink ribbon.

The easy first draft: What is easily kept in my jewelry is the Cheerios necklace my granddaughter made me. I’m that sloppy sentimental so it will travel with the flour dough brooch my son made me in grade school.

The second draft: No question I’ll keep the claw bracelet my father gave me. He lived in Southeast Asia and had bought it on impulse years earlier during a sentimental moment of remembering me. It is an entirely politically wrong bracelet perhaps made from an endangered species. If it were not my bracelet perhaps I’d lift my little snooty nose and suggest it has a tainted vibrational field of impurity that

The claw bracelet.

will forever be evil and should be thrown out or better yet, buried with reverence. But well, it was from my father and sincerely given after I hadn’t seen him from age seven to my twenties. The death of the animal was wrong then and is wrong now, but it is here in my possession as a keepsake and it will stay with me. Maybe in a later draft the bracelet will be at the very center definition of our father/daughter relationship.

The third draft: I have stepped into a “quaggy mire” of why I keep things and why I don’t. I opened a plastic container I’d overlooked before. I knew it held pieces from years ago, and I knew most of the pieces from that time were inexpensive, probably not worth keeping.

The Prisoner of War Bracelet from Vietnam for Captain Lionel Parra Jr.

What I first saw was the decades old, inexpensive nickel-plated bracelet with the engraving: CAPT. LIONEL PARRA JR. 7-17-68. Resting in the palm of my hand it felt as weighted in meaning and value as the politically incorrect whatever kt gold-trimmed claw bracelet. I randomly selected that Prisoner of War (POW) bracelet while standing in a chandelier-lit, plush-carpet, hotel lobby where voices are the rich confident whispers of the well-fed. It was during the Vietnam War and I was at a civic organization’s conference. Two men were behind a table that held half a dozen boxes with the names of a dozen men. I paid the few dollars it cost and put it on that afternoon. I wore it continuously until five years after the war, which ended in April 1975.

During my one and only trip to Washington D.C. I looked for his name on the Vietnam War Memorial, but I didn’t quickly find it and spent my time looking for two others I had known in real life. Perhaps ten years ago I looked up Parra’s name on the Memorial website, but didn’t see it

Major Lionel Parra Jr.

then either.

This time I did. I had never known what he looked like, but this picture popped up with information that he was born April 12, 1938, was from Sacramento, California, in the Marines, and was now designated a Major. Major Parra is missing from action from Quang Tri Province.

He looks like a good, strong man. When did anyone who knew and cared about him stop crying? How do the strangers who bought his namesake bracelet make their decision to take the bracelet off if they ever did? Further down on the website are notes from the people who also chose Lionel Parra Jr.

When does care, love, and grieving change from a human need to feel the sorrow of life to something else? War memorials are appropriate reminders, but when do bracelets, photos on the mantle, clothes still in the closet change from honest grief to something that can cripple the griever? There’s a lot that has been written on this subject, but yesterday, after I had opened the plastic box and looked his name up on the internet, there was another time of decision.

I did what I had done several times when dealing with the remains of another’s life. I have always chosen to keep a small physical item that reminds me of that person and will act as an amulet to protect the good and truest memories. They give me a tie between the earth and the sky to remember who they were and what they taught me.

This entry was posted in Grief's Blossoms of the Lower Branches, Utah to Arizona for a Next Life, Writing and Creativity Outpost and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Utah to Arizona #9, Cheerios Necklace, Endangered Species and POW Bracelet

  1. Very well written. I am liking your blog already. I have subscribed and I;kk return to read a few pasat entries at a time.

    Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I appreciate that very much.

  2. shoes says:

    What a beautiful and powerful piece. I am glad you are holding onto the bracelet so that someone out there has an item, a reminder of Major Lionel Parra Jr.

  3. what a beautiful piece. i too have a POW bracelet. I bought mine when i went about 10 yrs ago to DC to see the Rolling Thunder parade on Memorial Day. I was humbled and moved to tears that day. we all have those little boxes of things that we can’t part with-a homemade gift, a card, a piece of jewelry. Just holding these things in your hands brings back so many memories. thanks for visiting our site. we’ll be following yours.

  4. restlessjo says:

    How moving! I wouldn’t be able to abandon it, either, Rebecca.
    Thanks for visiting me.

  5. I like your thoughts on this. I’d keep stuff around to remind me of people too. It’s sad about Parra – he does look like a good man. What a waste the Vietnam war was, on both sides. Apparently Vietnamese are still being born with birth defects due to Agent Orange (so my sister says, who went there).

  6. My son has his father’s dog tags. My grandson has the American flag that was given to us at the time of his funeral. I keep in close contact with my deceased husband’s identical twin brother…my children call him “Uncle-Grandpa”. Memories are all we have…but so close at heart. Thank you for your prose….

    • The Vietnam War was heartbreaking for this country, as is any war, and I just wish we had learned more from it. Pain can go on the rest of life. And you’re welcome. I think more people still wear those bracelets or have them tucked away than we realize.

  7. petit4chocolatier says:

    A lovely post.

  8. David says:

    I bought the bracelet of Major Parra over a decade ago when i was in high school. It has followed me through out the years and around the globe. Often popping back up as yours did. Now as a former infantry Marine, with a t-shirt full of names of my fallen brothers, this bracelet means more than ever. I was relieved, in a way, that my bracelet was one of many. That Major Parra will never truly be forgotten. No matter how many times he is put in a box or kitchen drawer. Semper Fidelis

    • First, thank you for stopping by and thoughtfully commenting. You know much more about what the bracelet deeply means than I ever did when I bought it. I think those bracelets brought home the names of those serving in Vietnam in a way that this otherwise very war-torn country didn’t understand or appreciate at that time. I wonder if doing a similar thing would be effective today. I do know I will keep it forever as I have an item or two of other lost loved ones. Thanks again.

  9. venice says:

    Lionel Parra was my uncle. Thank you for your remembrance

  10. You’re welcome. I still have the bracelet.

  11. James Walter parra says:

    Lionel was my grandfather, married my grandmother and adopted my father , I have the flag they gave my grandmother at his service , Christmas cards from the governor and president, thank you for your kind words.

  12. You have some dear keepsakes of your grandfather. My best wishes to you always. Thank you for commenting.

  13. J Riley says:

    I have had Captain Lionel Parra Jr. 7/17/68 bracelet on since my Senior year in High School. That was in 1972. I have had it on everyday for the past 43 years. He has been a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that he and so many others made back in that war.

  14. DeAnna Parra says:

    Major Lionel Parra Jr was my husband’s grandfather. His son is Gary Parra and my husband is William Parra. Thank you for your kind words. About a year ago, my husband and I got to visit the Vietnam War Memorial. I was rushed with emotions. My father-in-law was around 13 years old the last time he saw him. Then, the questions started flowing through my mind. How did the plane crash? Were there survivors? If he survived, was he captured? So many unanswered questions and sadly will remain unanswered. Once again thank you for kind words.

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