In January 2013, Carrie Farley was returning from visiting her parents in Wisconsin when she realized she was missing something irreplaceable: Her silver bracelet with the name of her son, Army Staff Sgt. Derek J. Farley, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
The Gold Star Mother -- as moms of fallen soldiers are known -- called her parents, but neither she nor they could find the bracelet. It was gone.
"It was the presence of my son and I wore it daily," she said Wednesday. "It was a very prized possession and I was very heartbroken when it was gone. But the sad fact of life, that as Gold Stars we know, is (that) life changes."
But more than a year later, Farley went back to Wisconsin to meet a woman whose daughter had used Facebook to make sure the bracelet made it back to where it belongs.
"It was so wonderful to get it back, and personally, I believe my son had a little something to do with this," Farley said.
When Farley visited her parents, she took them to Dick and Joan's Supper Club in Appleton, Wis., for their 60th wedding anniversary. After they left, cleaners found her bracelet, Farley said.
"The employees made an attempt to look under 'Farley' in the phone book," she said. "No 'Farley' in Wisconsin. The bracelet was placed in a drawer. A year and a half later, this woman's daughter opened up the drawer, saw the bracelet and said, 'Mom, you should try and get this back.' She said, "We did; we found nothing.' She said: 'Can I take a picture and put it on Facebook? Maybe that will help.' "
Alisa Heiman is the mother of the woman who posted a picture of the bracelet on Facebook. Heiman is the bar manager at Dick and Joan's and her daughter Tabitha is a waitress at the restaurant. After the picture was posted, Heiman took phone calls from people who found the names of Farley's parents online.
Heiman comes from a military family and her daughter has friends who have joined up, so both have a deep sense of appreciation for how close military families are.
"We also have experienced a lot of deaths here — a lot of older crowd here — and we know what family feels like, and we just wanted to reach out and make sure it got back to the rightful owner," Heiman said. "We know that if it would have been someone in our family, we would have we wanted that returned."
Heiman called Farley's parents and found out that Farley was coming to town for Easter. That allowed her to give Farley the bracelet in person.
"She was so happy and grateful about it that it was really neat to see," Heiman said. "It was really neat to feel too because we have had a regular who was in the military here, who passed away in Afghanistan or Iraq. Knowing how special mementos are for that son's parent, I knew Carrie would need to have that last reminder."
While Farley is elated to have her bracelet back, she wants people to understand that this story isn't really about her. To her, the most moving aspect of the experience is seeing the kindness of strangers who wanted to make sure that a bracelet honoring a fallen soldier was returned to its rightful owner.
"The daughter and this mom took five minutes out of their day in honor of this soldier to make sure someone got this bracelet back," she said. "That's the wonderful part of this. They didn't have to do that. But to honor the soldier and to have this wonderful story come out of it, it touches you. Human beings are still connected — and can be — by Facebook. That's the beauty of this whole story. It isn't about me getting it back. It's about them."