Armed & glamorous

Sep 18, 2011, 03:04 IST | Yolande D'Mello

Two former US Navy officers are designing a jewellery line to honour the dead by creating accessories that put bullets to better use, and raise money for survivors

Two former US Navy officers are designing a jewellery line to honour the dead by creating accessories that put bullets to better use, and raise money for survivors 

After serving in the United States Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal, officers Erik Spalding and Cole Evans decided to find a way to support fellow service members, especially those who sacrificed their lives for their country. In June this year, Bullets2Bandages was born. The company uses ammunition to produce dog tags, bracelets and belts that help raise funds for Travis Manion Foundation, an NGO that provides counselling and acts as a support system for families of deceased soldiers.

This is a 5.56mm Antique Brass Hand dog tag costs $39 or Rs 1,800

You can go online and order a T-shirt and cap in good will or opt for a more explosive look, by selecting bracelets, belts, even a bottle opener made from a 50-caliber machine gun bullet. "Our Bullets are purchased from Department of Defense surplus auctions, or ammunition brokers who purchase the components from military ranges.

Regardless of the place of purchase, the brass casings originate from a variety of military shooting ranges," says 29 year-old Spalding, who was stationed in the Middle East, and Southeast Asia after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 2000. Meanwhile 30 year-old Evans was posted in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Bahrain, where he trained their Special Forces in Underwater Combat Demolition and Counter Improvised Explosive Tactics.

The idea of Bullets2Bandages came about quite by fluke, says Spalding. "One evening, I accidentally dropped a 9mm bullet, and it rolled onto my military dog tag. Out of curiosity, I took a photograph of it on my phone and uploaded it on Facebook. The response was overwhelming. So, we began developing the idea," explains Spalding over e-mail from California.

"Since the United States has been engaged in two major wars, there is a large veteran community, and unlike the Vietnam error, the American public is fully invested in taking care of its veterans, so people take pride is showing their support." Thirty per cent of all profits from sale proceeds go to The Travis Manion Foundation.
The jewellery line comprises of 5.56mm rifle rounds and 9mm pistol rounds. You can choose from classic, bronze, brushed and antique brass finishes, depending on your cartridge preference.

They also manufacture a 50-caliber machine gun bullet bottle opener. The jewellery is hand-made, and all the casings are once-fired. "Every single piece is therefore, unique and comes with its own story," says Evans. Cole, and Evans still hand-press the bullets.  While initially, the two functioned out of their living rooms, they have had to expand and hire hands for production.

"Our message is simple," says Spalding, "As Americans, we enjoy a multitude of luxuries, and opportunities that can sometimes come at a high price. The men and women who risk their lives in service of the US should be taken care of. While government organisations like the Veterans Administration try to fulfill this role, it is the responsibility of private industry to help too."

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