ROANOKE, Va. – In January 2019, Amry Capt. Drew Ross of Rockbridge County was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
“He was just the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. He was super impressive and competitive yet very humble,” said his friend and fellow West Point graduate Nick Wheeler. “He was one of those guys that no matter how hard things got in training or in combat, he was always thinking about others and putting others first before himself.”
Ross lost his life when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Afghanistan in November 2018. Two other service members were also killed.
“It wasn’t just that he was going off and fighting this war because he was told to, he decided to come back from his first tour and go special forces because this meant more to him. He wanted to make a bigger impact,” said Sarah Geisen, Ross’ sister.
While nothing can bring him back, friends and family keep his memory alive by wearing bracelets from a non-profit called Steel Hearts, available to honor U.S. service academy members who died in action.
“We’ve been around since 2015. We sell high-quality steel commemorative bracelets,” explained John Crowley, the company’s president and chief operating officer.
Crowley said that while commemorative bracelets are quite common in the military, what his company offers are a notch above the others.
“The thought was there was a higher quality bracelet that could be produced; something that stood out in a kind of special way. And I thought there was for the service academy graduates maybe we could do something special,” he said.
“I got to help design this which was really special. I got some input from some of my brother’s classmates and some of the guys that he served on his first tour with,” Geisen said.
Among all they sell, those honoring Ross are among the most popular. No surprise to Wheeler, who works with the non-profit and was a friend of Ross.
“He was an impressive human being. And definitely lives on in many of our lives today,” he said.
A portion of the sales goes back to military charities of the family’s choosing. In Ross’ case, it is a foundation in his honor.
A simple band of steel keeping memories alive. Important to think about during this long weekend. But families of lost service members will point out that for them, every day is Memorial Day.