A Question Often Asked, A Story Seldom Told


Garrett Cathcart   |   May 25, 2024

This Memorial Day, we share why our Executive Director, Garrett Cathcart, and our Operations Manager, Alice Garcia, wear the same KIA bracelets, honoring the same man.

Cpt David Fraser


I’m often asked about the name on the black Killed In Action (KIA) bracelet I’ve worn for over 17 years. Every time—whether at church, on a date, on vacation, or at work—they ask with hesitancy as if unsure if they should be asking in the first place. Rest assured, if you see someone wearing a KIA bracelet, they want to share the story of the hero because when we tell their stories, we keep their memory alive and honor their sacrifice.

Dave Fraser was truly one of the best guys I knew at West Point. I met him when we were both applying to the academy as high school students in Houston. After we became cadets, we were assigned to the same company as freshmen, or plebes, as we call it. I can vividly recall the wide smile on his face and his genuine care for the well-being of others. During flights home for the holidays, we’d catch up, and after graduation, we went our separate ways.

He was killed by an IED right before he was supposed to go home at the end of his deployment. Dave’s funeral was a blur for me, but what stands out most was his unit sitting together in a section of the church since they had returned home. His sacrifice impacted me deeply, and wearing his name on my wrist reminds me not only of the memories I have of him but of every American hero who has given their life in defense of our country. It inspires me to continue to fight for our country, for the democracy we hold dear, and for the freedom we sometimes take for granted.


“Hey, I like your bracelet—does it mean something?”

It’s a question I’m asked more often than you might think, and my answer varies depending on my mood, my energy levels, and perhaps even if the sun is shining or not. Sometimes, I’ll simply say, “Thank you, and yes, it’s for a buddy.” Other times, I’ll reply with the unbearable truth: “Thanks, it’s for my best friend who was Killed In Action in Iraq.” The awkwardness that follows is a familiar companion, a dance I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. I understand the curiosity, the desire to be respectful, and the struggle to find the right words in the face of such a revelation.

The reality is, I could wear a half dozen different bracelets, each bearing the name of a man I knew closely. I led them or was led by them—brothers in arms—in the truest sense of the word. We served together, suffered together, and experienced the highest highs and lowest lows, testing the limits of human emotion and endurance. The KIA bracelets, worn by many veterans, serve as a tribute to the fallen, a tangible connection to those we knew personally or shared a bond with through our service. On Memorial Day, in particular, the nation is called upon to pause and remember, to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our country.

In my younger, more impetuous days, I would bristle at the well-intentioned but misguided wishes of a “Happy Memorial Day” or the excitement of upcoming travel plans. I’d retort, perhaps a bit too sharply, “It’s not about barbecues and adventures—it’s about remembering those who gave their lives for the country.” But as time passed, bringing with it a measure of maturity and hard-earned wisdom, I’ve come to understand that it is, in fact, about the barbecues and the adventures, the simple joys and the grand pursuits—all while remembering and honoring the reason we have the freedom to enjoy them. The sacrifices made by the fallen have gifted us with the safety and liberty to live our lives as we choose, which is a debt we can never fully repay.

During our deployment to Iraq, my friend Dave and I would often debate about where we’d go when we returned home. He longed for the rugged mountains of Patagonia while I dreamed of the sun-drenched beaches of Rio. We never got the chance to settle that debate. On his last day in Iraq, Dave was killed by an IED, and instead of embarking on a South American adventure, I found myself at his funeral, grappling with a loss that felt insurmountable. Seventeen years later, I finally made the journey to Patagonia, climbing those mountains and fly fishing in those lakes, carrying with me not just a bracelet but the memory of a friend and the weight of a promise unfulfilled.

Just last week, I found myself in Texas with +MPU, collaborating with the Combined Arms Center just outside Houston to feed over 150 veteran families at a food drive. It was a day filled with purpose, a reminder of the profound impact we can have when we come together in service of others.

That night, for the first time in years, I saw Dave’s parents. It was a meeting I had both longed for and dreaded, unsure of what emotions it might stir up within me. As I approached them, my heart raced, and my mind flooded with memories of Dave, the laughter we shared, the battles we fought, and the dreams we held for the future.

But as we embraced, the years melted away, and I found myself enveloped in a warmth that can only come from a shared understanding, a common grief, and an unbreakable bond. We talked about Dave, about the man he was, the life he lived, and the legacy he left behind. We shed tears but also smiled, remembering the joy he brought into our lives and the indelible mark he left on our hearts.

At that moment, I realized that my journey had come full circle. The work I was doing with +MPU, the veterans and families we were serving, and the connections I was building all felt like pieces of a larger puzzle, a tapestry woven together by the threads of love, loss, and a shared commitment to something greater than ourselves.

So, why do I wear this bracelet? I wear it so that people will ask. It gives me the opportunity to share the story of a man far better than myself, to keep his name and memory alive, and to remind others of the profound sacrifice and immeasurable cost of service and war. I wear it to remind myself that I must never stop serving and that my duty to protect and preserve our country and democracy did not end when I took off the uniform. It drives me to embrace life fully, to make the most of every day, and to strive to make this world a better place.

And I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Countless veterans I’ve spoken to share the same yearning to serve in meaningful ways once more, to find purpose in a world that often feels disconnected from the ideals we fought for. We look at the current state of our nation, at the fractures in our democracy, and we feel a profound sense of disillusionment, a nagging fear that the sacrifices made by our fallen brothers and sisters may have been in vain.

But it is in this very struggle that we find our calling, our reason to keep pushing forward. We carry the memories of those we lost, the weight of their sacrifices, and the hope for a brighter future. That is why I am here at +More Perfect Union, working tirelessly to make a difference, honor the legacy of the fallen, and build a country worthy of their sacrifice. Because in the end, we are all connected, all part of a greater tapestry, woven together by the threads of love, loss, and an unwavering commitment to the ideals that define us as a nation.

So, when you see me wearing this bracelet, know that it is more than just a piece of metal and a name. It is a story waiting to be told, a life waiting to be remembered, and a promise waiting to be kept. And I will keep telling that story, keep honoring that memory, and keep fighting for that promise until my last breath.

Garrett with Cpt David Fraser’s parents.