In this undated photo, eighth-grader Carlton Wilcox reminds seventh-grader Zach Hodson how to braid a paracord survival bracelet during the Military History Club at the University of Wyoming Lab School in Laramie, Wyo. Students sold the bracelets to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. (Jeremy Martin / Laramie Daily Boomerang via AP)
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LARAMIE, WYO. — In Military History Club, University of Wyoming Lab School students watch war films, talk military history and make bracelets.
But seventh-grader Zach Hodson, a member of the club, said these aren’t your run-of-the-mill bracelets.
“These are really durable, waterproof bracelets,” he said. “They’re made for survival situations. Like, if you have a tarp in the woods and nothing else, you can use the bracelet’s cord to make a tent. And the cord supports a lot of weight, like 550 pounds, so you could save someone’s life by getting a bunch of this, and if you had to, lower them out of the window in an emergency scenario or whatever. It’s basically just however you’re going to need it.”
The bracelets are made by braiding together several feet of parachute cord, also known as paracord, which can be untwined for use in survival situations.
Military History Club adviser Oscar Lilley said students have been making the bracelets to support The Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that helps wounded veterans transition into civilian life.
“Those bracelets started while people were in Iraq,” said Lilley, an Iraq combat veteran. “When you were in Iraq, you’d have paracord and making these bracelets was almost just a thing for soldiers to do in their spare time. Afterward, it was almost like a testament of being a veteran, coming home wearing a green paracord bracelet. So, we thought the best way to honor veterans and raise money for Wounded Warriors would be to build these paracord bracelets that are kind of indicative of being a veteran of the post-9/11 era.”
Lilley said the bracelets sell for $5 apiece, and students have raised about $250. Eighth-grader Carlton Wilcox, a member of the club, said he’s learned a lot about America’s wars and veterans while making bracelets.
“When I first heard that (Mr. Lilley) was doing this elective, I had been wanting one of these bracelets, so I thought, ‘Oh hey, it’d be pretty cool to come learn about it,’” he said. “The more I learned about it, and the more we talked about this project — and I think the more people we told about it — the more we all started coming together for the actual project and making the bracelets for the Wounded Warriors.”
Lilley said the bracelets and films have served as discussion pieces to introduce students to post-9/11 conflicts.
“When they come in, I use documentaries and fictional war movies to allow them to connect and understand about America’s military history,” he said. “Essentially, they come in, we look at film and we discuss the history, and while they’re watching the films, they actually build these paracord bracelets.”
Lilley said the fundraiser wasn’t necessarily about the dollar amount raised but what the students learned.
“Two-hundred and fifty dollars doesn’t even make a dent,” he said. “But it’s a big deal to these students that they can contribute.
“And a lot of this post-9/11 stuff simply hasn’t been explained to them. The geopolitical context and all of that just hasn’t been put in frame for them. That’s something that we do in this Military History Club; it’s to kind of show them that being a veteran doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an old guy from the 60s in a camouflage jacket.”
Wilcox said he’s proud to help veterans.
“Basically, my whole entire family has been in the military for generations, so hearing about this has been a great experience,” he said. “When I grow older, I plan on going into the military as well.”