How To Honor An American Hero Every Day
September 22, 2007
On Wednesday, I received an email from a gentleman who ran across A Soldier’s Mind. This gentleman, Chris Greta was impressed with the stories we feature here and asked if he could reprint some of them on his website. Being curious about who wanted to do so, I went to his website, Hero Bracelets and browsed around. I was VERY impressed with what I saw and gave him permission to reprint and link back to our articles.
I’d like to share with you all, a little about Chris Greta and what he’s making happen, through his website. Actually, I’ll let Chris tell you in his own words.
I grew up in the 60’s in LA as a hippy surf rat watching Vietnam on TV every night. The war ended while I was in high school spending my days dreading my turn at the draft. It was a very different time then. I saw the military, as all my hippy surf rat friends did, as something to be avoided at any cost. It took a lot of years to change my attitude, but my attitude did change. As I got to know ex-military people, I grew to really respect the qualities they learned in the military. I realized that these people had something I didn’t. Then when the war in Iraq started, I saw the political sides using the military for their own purposes. I didn’t like the fact that one side ranted about the losses to support their party while the other side tried to hide the losses for their own purposes.
Remember the ban on showing the flag draped coffins?
And then I found out the death benefit for young families was only $12K.
That all pissed me off. So since I own an ad agency and I knew how to build company concepts and Web sites, I decided to make bracelets to honor the memories of those killed and raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which DOUBLED what the government did for families, all through private donations.
I came up with the name, HeroBracelets and found a small family-owned company that could manufacture the bracelets. I put up a basic Web site and got five orders the second day. Within a week, an AP reporter found the site and mentioned it in a story, which bombarded me with 75 orders the next day. Then 150, then 200. I was trying to keep my little agency going, but the orders kept coming in and I started to panic. I hadn’t planned on this. I didn’t have time or people enough to manage this.
Then, over the next few months, every major network and newspaper did stories on the project. We had reporters and camera crews out to the office several days a week. A story on FOX News hammered us with 1600 orders in a single day.
I was able to get friends, neighborhood kids and people who saw the story on the news to come help stuff envelopes and keep track of everything. It killed my agency business. We lost several clients because I couldn’t get to their work.
The problem was, it was the most amazing thing I’d ever been involved with, so everything else came in second (including my business).
At one point, we were getting fifteen pounds of mail a day.
We were all in a bit of a panic, but I found a couple programmers that could help us with the ordering system on the Web site. We made a lot of improvements, added the ability to do custom bracelets, deployed bracelets, Purple Heart bracelets and more. We put up a blog to reprint some of the thousands of letters and email we’ve received and we’ve worked to help promote other projects.
To date, we think we’ve sent out around 50,000 bracelets and raised around $100,000.00 for the Fallen Heroes Fund.
There are several things I’ve learned from this whole project.
1. Anyone can and should do something for the greater good. We all have a talent that we owe it to the rest of the world to use to do something that helps people who need help. Families who have just lost a son or daughter are devastated. Giving them something personal that they can have with them every day to memorialize that person is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
2. You can create a self-sustaining business that can actually do a good thing. We priced everything at HeroBracelets to cover the basic costs of operations and make the donation to the fund, AND we did all that while producing a better quality bracelet than anyone else for LESS money. We kept everything extremely efficient while constantly improving the service and the bracelets. We worked with our manufacturer to create a new method of making the bracelets that eliminate sharp, unfinished edges and make the bracelets strong, tough and very durable. And we can do all this while keeping the price lower than anyone we’ve found. Once we started the project, a ton of other online “organizations” cropped up. Some were total scams. Some ripped off everything we had created, even down to the name. One claims to be making donations to the Intrepid fund which isn’t true.
3. I’ve talked to literally thousands of people from all over the world. People really do care about our men and women in uniform. And it’s obvious they care for each other. I’ve heard from many commanders wanting, sometimes hundreds of bracelets for their unit, bearing the names of those they’ve lost. I’ve cried many times with parents who have lost their son’s and daughters. I’ve learned to appreciate every waking moment I have with my children.
4. Anyone can, and should do something like this. I’m no genius and I don’t have a lot of time to spare (work, kids etc), but I figured out a way to do it.
Hero Bracelets was started in December 2004, to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Hero’s Fund and as Chris stated above, they’ve been able to donate near $100,000 to the fund. They’ve gotten tons of positive feedback about their project and hear from Troops in Iraq on almost a weekly basis, sometimes by phone and sometimes by email.
Chris does most of the work for Hero Bracelets in the evenings, as he’s the owner of a small two person ad agency in Austin called Ad Ranch. He tries to balance things between Hero Bracelets and the Ad Ranch as much as possible. Chris does his work with Hero Bracelets, not because he has to, but because he feels very passionate about honoring our Heroes as well as ensuring that the families of the fallen warriors are assisted financially.
Hero Bracelets makes several different types of bracelets as well as a dog tag. The original design was a Memorial Hero Bracelet to our our Fallen Warriors or a Memorial Hero Tag. The order page also includes a searchable database of Troops who have fallen in Iraq or Afghanistan.
They also offer a Deployed Hero Bracelet to enable loved ones of Troops currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to honor their Hero.
For those who prefer a necklace to a bracelet, they offer a Deployed Hero Tag on a similar design to the dog tags our Troops wear.
Wishing to honor our Vietnam Veterans as well, they offer a Vietnam Hero Bracelet. As with the memorial bracelet, their site offers a searchable database of the 58,231 Americans whose lives were lost in the Vietnam War.
Do you want to honor a Wounded Warrior that you know? The next item they offer is the Purple Heart Hero Bracelet, in honor and support of those who were wounded in action. Each bracelet or tag can be customed to your liking, with the additional benefit on the Memorial and Vietnam Hero Bracelets of being able to have a randomly chosen name on your bracelet.
Last but not least, a different type of Hero Bracelet, a Leather Version of the Hero Bracelets. The bracelets and tags are all very reasonably priced and $2.00 from the sale of each bracelet is donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. $2.00 from the sale of each Purple Heart Hero Bracelet, is donated to the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Chris said that they’re in the process of adding a sterling silver bracelet to the list of bracelets that are available. He’s been in touch with a silversmith who will hand make each and every sterling silver bracelet that is ordered and hand stamp in the copy. From what Chris says, they’re beautiful and completely hand made. I’m looking forward to seeing them.
Chris also has a blog at the site, which features stories from different people who have one of their bracelets and of course our Warriors themselves. Chris also regularly features stories about different military health care issues and other pertinent information relating to our country’s Armed Forces. Take some time to visit the Hero Bracelets website, read the blog and order yourself a bracelet. That way you’ll not only be honoring an American Hero each and everytime you wear your bracelet, but you’ll be helping out the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and military families. I can’t think of a better way to honor our Heroes in the military and support military charities as well.