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KIA bracelets OK, rolled-up sleeves banned for Marines

Marines in uniform may wear bracelets commemorating friends killed in action, the Corps' top general says. However, Marines must stop their tradition of rolling up their sleeves.
Image: Timothy Kudo wears a KIA bracelet
Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo wears a bracelet commemorating Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz-Rivera, a platoon sergeant killed by a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan's Helmand province, while sitting outside his apartment in Brooklyn, New York.John Minchillo / AP
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Marines in uniform may wear bracelets commemorating friends killed in action, but the wristbands might be hidden under a new rule ending the Corps' tradition of rolling up their sleeves.

Marine Gen. James Amos, Corps commandant, Tuesday announced approval of the KIA bracelets, usually thin rubber or metal bands, each bearing the name of a fallen comrade.

"We are acknowledging the close personal nature of our 10 years at war and the strong bonds of fidelity that Marines have for one another, especially for those fellow Marines who we have lost," Amos said.

The bracelet decision takes effect immediately.

However, beginning Oct. 24, the Marines' combat utility uniform must be worn with sleeves rolled down year round, according to a policy change issued Tuesday. Tightly rolled up sleeves have been a Corps' tradition.

The sleeves rule was made at the same symposium as the bracelet approval, but the decision were unrelated, officials told Stars and Stripes military newspaper.

The sleeves rule sparked an outrage in social media posts. On Twitter, they carried the hashtag #occupyHQMC.

"This sleeves thing is frigin stupid," one person tweeted to the secretary of the Navy. "You need to step in and show some leadership."

"The ladies in my office are devastated that my biceps will now be hidden from their view," tweeted one person identifying himself as an officer.

"Pretty soon, our name tapes and rank will be Velcro too," said a tweeter who claimed to be a former Marine.

A Marine spokesman tweeted that sleeves down with "cuffs lightly against the wrist allows for increased air circulation in a hot weather environment." He also said sleeves down "protects against harmful sun rays, biting insects."

The bracelets were technically not allowed under Marine Corps uniform regulations. Nevertheless, some troops wear them while in uniform, and some but not all commanders had been telling them to stop.

That put some Marines in a dilemma: On one side was the Corps' tradition of good discipline and following orders. On the other, the searing emotions of a force hit with rising casualties as it helped reverse insurgent momentum in Afghanistan's southern Taliban stronghold.

Amos' decision also permits bracelets memorializing those missing in action and those who died of wounds or injuries sustained in a combat theater, the Corps said in an official statement.

Permission was granted after Amos met with senior leaders at a Marine Corps General Officer Symposium, a group that makes recommendations to the commandant, the Corps said.

The Marine Corps Times reported that a visit Monday by Amos and his top enlisted officer, Sgt. Maj. Mike Barrett, to Corps' Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., sealed the deal.

Several Marines returning with a battalion that lost five members during heavy combat while deployed seven months in Afghanistan wore KIA bracelets, the Times said.

Amos asked the Marines about the bracelets and received "positive feedback," an official told the Times.

Details of standardization and uniformity will be issued by the end of the week, the Corps' said.

The regulation on Marine uniforms does not specifically mention the KIA bracelets among jewelry authorized for wear when in uniform. It says Marines can wear watches, but they must be inconspicuous; necklaces must be worn inside the uniform and not visible; men can't wear earrings, though women can wear one per ear. Both sexes can wear inconspicuous rings — one to a hand but not on their thumbs.

The bracelet prohibition has been the same for men and women in the Marine Corps, a force of some 202,000 that is only 6 percent female.

All the service branches have similar rules on jewelry, though they parted ways on some specifics, including on bracelets.