Thanks to the power of social media, a bracelet lost two years ago off Florida’s Atlantic coast is being reunited with its owner this week.
The bracelet belongs to Chris Kelley, of St. Joseph. It bears the names of four men who died in Iraq in 2009, including his brother, Matthew Kelley.
Their father, Steve Kelley, of Osborne, Mo., said Matthew died Jan. 26, 2009 when the helicopter he and another pilot were in was shot down by enemy fire. Another helicopter from his unit, carrying two pilots, was shot down, too, totaling four casualties.
Steve said the unit made bracelets honoring the four men, and Chris, also an Iraq War veteran, received one of them.
Chris said he lost the bracelet while at Daytona Beach for a friend’s wedding during Bike Week.
Recently, the bracelet resurfaced in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., some 240 miles away.
Steve said a couple who live there found the bracelet, took a photo and posted it to Facebook, in hopes of finding the bracelet’s owner. From there, the photo went viral. At last count, it had been reshared over 200,000 times, Chris said.
“I don’t actually have a Facebook account, but apparently after it went viral the first person that told me about it was a friend of mine,” he said.
Chris said his reaction was shock.
“I mean, I just figured that it was gone,” he said.
While he’s glad for the chance to reunite with the bracelet — he’s planning to visit with the couple who found it in Orlando on Friday — he said the story of the bracelet going viral also has spread the story of his brother and of the other men who served.
“I’m fortunate to get it back, but I think it touched a lot of people in other ways,” he said.
Coincidentally, Chris said his brother’s widow also was in Florida, visiting another widow of the four. She also will be present to meet with the couple.
Steve said he is amazed by the bracelet’s journey. He also said his son is excited to see it again.
“I’m sure he’ll treasure it the rest of his life,” he said. “It was lost and now, found.”
He added that he’s thankful that the couple sought out the bracelet’s owner.
“I’m grateful for the people (who were) able to find it and the extra effort they made to find the owner, and all the people on Facebook who kept on sharing it and sharing it,” he said. “... (It’s an example) of the really good stuff that can happen on social media.”
Chris said the experience of going to retrieve the bracelet will be good, but bittersweet.
“It’s emotional for me. Even though it’s been five years, it’s a big part of who I am now,” he said. “It’s not something I talk about all the time.”
He hasn’t decided if he’ll continue to wear it once he has it back, or if he’ll keep it someplace safe.
“I’ll probably decide that once I get it,” he said.