McCain and the Bracelet

Toward the end of almost every speech he gives or informal remarks he delivers at a town hall-style meeting, Sen. John McCain tells the same story.

If you watch him carefully, you can even tell when it's coming.

The Arizona senator will shoot his right arm forward in his suit sleeve, revealing a dark metallic band low on his wrist. It's probably an unconscious gesture. He doesn't hold up the bracelet. He doesn't look at it. But very soon he will tell the story. He has told it hundreds of times.

"Every once in a while," he invariably begins, "you have an experience, an event in our lives, that puts everything into the right priority and into the right importance in your life. That happened to me last August in Wolfeboro, N.H. A woman stood up at the town hall meeting and said: 'Sen. McCain, would you wear a bracelet with my son's name on it?'"

"Matthew Stanley. Matthew was 22 years old. He was killed in combat outside of Baghdad just before Christmas [2006],'" McCain explains. " I said 'I would be honored to wear this bracelet.' And then she said: 'Sen. McCain, I just want you to promise me one thing. I want you to promise me that you'll do everything in your power to make sure that my son's death was not in vain.' I promised her then that I would. And I will keep that promise, not only to her, but to thousands and thousands of other family members of brave young Americans who have served and sacrificed."

The bracelet is black or cobalt blue and has a dull sheen. It bears a small picture of Stanley and is engraved with his name along with his rank -- Army specialist -- to which he was posthumously promoted. It also has the date of his death. Dec. 16th, 2006. McCain put it on and hasn't taken it off since.

Lynne Savage is Stanley's mother. At 54, she is a special education assistant at Kingswood Regional Middle School in Wolfeboro, N.H.

It was just by chance that she met with McCain. Her husband, James Savage, Stanley's stepfather, is an ardent McCain supporter, so when the candidate came to town in August, he wanted her to go with him. Unlike her husband, Savage is a Democrat.

She agree to go mostly out of curiosity.

"I had an idea what he was like from the first time he had run for president [in 2000]," she said. "My husband was talking about him quite a bit at that time. He seemed like a nice guy, but that's as far as it went at that time. I really wasn't all that interested. I was a Democrat for gosh sakes. But, this time, when I went I listened more carefully to what he had to say. After having lost my son in a war, I wanted to know what they all had to say, so I said I will go and I will listen and I did."

She listened to McCain explain his support for war in Iraq and the U.S. troop surge there. When he took questions from the audience,  Savage raised her hand, surprising herself at her uncharacteristic audacity.  

"I had my son's bracelet on and for some reason, I began to think about the Vietnam War," she said. " I raised my hand and I said to him, 'You know, during that war, I kept the memory of somebody and now I have to wear my son's bracelet.' And I asked him if he wouldn't mind wearing it so he could remember why he was running for president … so that my son doesn't die in vain."

McCain approached until he was standing just a few feet away, she said.

"He was overwhelmed," she said. "He said 'I'll wear it. I'll wear it every day.' It was a very touching moment."

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