Youth uses pastime to support Honor 361 war memorial

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Sept. 6, 2013 at 4:06 a.m.

Tyler Johnson, 13, holds bracelets he braids from parachute cord to raise money for the Honor 361 war memorial.

Tyler Johnson, 13, holds bracelets he braids from parachute cord to raise money for the Honor 361 war memorial.   Elena Watts for The Victoria Advocate

Tyler Johnson, 13, uses his ingenuity for an important cause.

The Howell eighth-grader braids parachute cords into bracelets that he sells for $20. His father, Scott Johnson, handstamps oval sterling silver medallions with

Originally called the South Texas Iraq-Afghanistan War Monument, the memorial is now referred to as Honor 361.

Tyler donates the proceeds from the sale of his bracelets to Gilbert Ramon's brainchild, which Ramon and his committee envision as a marble and granite monument in a new Heroes' Park.

"I'm so proud of Tyler - he's an unselfish kid," Ramon said. "His parents are positive role models."

The idea for the fundraiser dawned on Johnson between Nixon and Smiley as he and his family cruised up Highway 87 toward San Antonio.

Tyler and his mother passed the time on their trip to the 4-H State Shoot by braiding bracelets.

Two yards of two different parachute cord colors are used to create each bracelet, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes to braid. The color schemes are camouflage and tan for men and camouflage and hot pink for women. The medallions take about five minutes to handstamp.

"In U.S. history, students learn who won and who had the biggest army," Tyler said. "But you don't learn what the soldiers went through - the personal side of it."

Tyler's connection to the project stems from the bond between his father and Ramon, both Victoria men who served in the Marine Corps.

"Men serve and die to help us," Tyler said. "This is a tribute to them."

In August, Tyler sold nine bracelets at a street party in Victoria's downtown DeLeon Plaza. Texas country music singer-songwriter Jennifer Martinez gave Tyler a shout-out from the stage during the party.

He also plans to sell the bracelets at his mother's office, The Other Feed Store.

In January, Tyler is scheduled to teach a bracelet-making class to fellow 4-H Club members at a lock in, which is a way to increase production.

"This is more than a monument; it's a movement," Ramon said.

This is a way to educate the youth about the mistakes of the Vietnam War, so they do not repeat them, he said. Soldiers deserve respect, not disdain.

The main purpose of the memorial is to honor veterans from all eras for their service and to provide a place for South Texas families and friends of soldiers to pay their respects.

"The dream is to have a park," Ramon said. "Maybe someone will donate 10 to 20 acres."

The concept of the memorial has expanded to include first responders.

Many soldiers become policemen, firefighters and EMS providers when they leave the service because they want the bonds they had in the military, Ramon said. And they want to help.

"The kids I see at church, 4-H, school and around the neighborhood renew my faith," Johnson said. "The situation with the youth is not as dire as they tell you on television."



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