When army veteran Elsa Zarate’s son was deployed overseas with the Marines, she turned fabric from his old uniform into a wristband to wear — she wanted to feel close to her son 24/7 while he served his country.
She took a tag from his boot camp uniform and fabric from the shirt and belt and sewed them into a bracelet. Soon, military families all over the country were sending Zarate orders for bracelets. The army mom calls the project Bands4Courage.
She donates half of her sales to military support organizations; the rest goes to paying for materials and shipping costs.
“I started brainstorming and realized, “What better way to honor the uniform as well as the men and women who wear it?'” Zarate says. “The whole mission is to give back and to help out. It’s to create a connection between military members and the people who will honor their sacrifices.
Zarate also tries to rescue old uniforms whenever possible, and many military families have started sending in the uniforms of loved ones who have passed, rather than throwing them away or placing them in storage.
Reggie Harding recently asked Zarate to make 20 bracelets from her dad’s World War II Army jacket, then gave the bracelets to everyone in her family. She even saved bracelets for “future” Hardings.
One family asked Zarate to make a bracelet to honor their son who died serving in Afghanistan.
The most popular bracelet the Boise mother makes are her “patch wristbands,” which incorporate American flag patches, rank emblems, or uniform buttons into her designs.
The bracelets come with a commemorative card about the soldier, and can be purchased for $5 to $15 from the Bands4Courage website. Zarate says she does her best to personalize each order she receives.
“I do a lot of custom orders,” she says. “It’s not just what’s online, and I try to put a flair and some personality into each of them.”
Presently, Zarate is calling for donations of old uniforms in exchange for free bracelets.