Today I surrendered a valuable possession.
A selfish part of me wanted to hold onto a simple silver keepsake because of the powerful emotional connection to it, but the better part of me wanted to give it away as quickly as possible.
At a lunch table overlooking the breathless view of the San Francisco Bay, I took off a bracelet that I have been wearing since Christmas Eve and firmly placed it on the wrist of its rightful owner.
There are no gemstones to adorn it, but it is worth more than gold to its new recipient, the mother of fallen soldier Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield of Hayward, Calif.
It first belonged to Sgt. Chavez, a Marine recruiter in San Francisco's Bay Area, who brought 19-year old Lance Cpl Travis Layfield to the brotherhood.
He wore it for two-and-a-half years after his young recruit was killed April 6, 2004, in Ramadi fighting al-Qaida terrorists who desperately tried to defeat our American fighting forces to keep that war torn neighborhood as a stronghold for radical Islamic thugs.
Layfield's name, and the date he was killed in action is etched into the aluminum band, rubbed down by Sgt. Chavez's sweat and sacrifice for his country. Now the print is barely visible to the naked eye.
Layfield, descended from the silent warriors of the Lakota Sioux Indians, has reached back, even in death, to assure his mother that there are miracles and his spirit lives on.
In Kuwait to interview our troops about the surge for Move America Forward concerning the positive changes that are taking place in Iraq, and to deliver the 226,000 Christmas and Holidays cards we collected during a 40-city tour across America, I was approached by Sgt. Chavez.
He heard my speech about Move America Forward, and learned I was from the San Francisco area.
Afterwards, he approached me with a favor.
Sgt. Chavez asked me to deliver the bracelet to Layfield’s mother, whom he had last seen at her son's funeral at the Golden Gate cemetery in San Bruno nearly three years ago.
Diane is starting a new job on Monday. It is the first time she has felt able to move past the crushing grief that overwhelmed her when she first learned that her third child was killed in a hail of gunfire.
We met at Chevy's restaurant in Emeryville, Calif. halfway between her home and mine. She brought with her Travis' sister, Tiffany Bolton, whom Diane calls 'her rock.'
Tiffany brought her sons, 9-year old Trayvon and his little brother Jaydon, a toddler with curly black hair and piercing eyes, nephews of the fallen soldier. Both wore T-shirt remembrances of their Uncle.
Trayvon, the older child with eyes that sparkle with intelligence, told me that he dreams of an angel that looks like his Uncle Travis who visits him at night, speaking to him softly.
Diane and I first met when we held a fund raiser for Move America Forward to help Gold Star Families get into Iraq to visit the country where their sons and daughters died, accompanied by Mark Crowley, who also lost his son in the Fallujah fighting.
Mark Crowley at his son's funeral
What are the chances of meeting again under these circumstances? A million-to-one?
Diane, who knows miracles from coincidence, found another part of Travis that has lived on from beyond the grave --a grandchild from an ex-girlfriend who carries Travis' genes.
After a DNA test last fall, this new family is now getting acquainted, and spending time together with the grandchildren from her living children.
Diane and Tiffany speak about Travis as if he is living, as indeed he is in their heart, telling me stories about his generous nature, his anguish over the break-up with the girlfriend who (unknown to him) carried his child, and the last letter he ever wrote.
"Travis wasn't interested in school, or sports or much of anything except the military and watching the History Channel. Now he is part of history," according to Tiffany.
Diane smiled, Tiffany cried, Trayvon lay his head down on the table. They gave me a basket of roses in gratitude for bringing back this part of Travis' story, carried by a man who still feels anguished about his death.
Diane Layfield, Tiffany Bolton and the kids left the restaurant after our emotional meeting with a destination in mind -- the Marine recruiting office in Hayward to find Sgt. Chavez and write to him about the valuable gift received and cherished.
I promised Sgt. Chavez during a rainstorm in Kuwait that I would deliver the bracelet.
It is now a promise humbly kept to a family who lives through the memory of an honorable young man who served his country well.
Cpl. Travis Layfield, KIA April 6, 2004