'Don't lose your marbles': a veteran's unique keepsake to honor friend

Posted at 5:09 PM, Dec 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-26 00:17:37-05

Marisa McCarter joined the Idaho Army National Guard at just 17 years old, attending boot camp, before her senior year of high school.

"I missed my own graduation because I went to advanced individual training," said McCarter.

She followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, who also served.

"I always wished he had written down all his stories, he had amazing stories from India, and I always wished he written them down, so I decided, I'd write [mine] down," said McCarter.

Her story is called 'Marbles', and it details more than just her experience, but her time with Carrie French. Another young Idahoan she met at renegade camp.

"With blonde hair, angel kiss freckles, and soft brown eyes accompanied by a pink shirt, we could not have been more opposite," McCarter read, "She asked if I was heading to Texas and after we realized we were in the same boat, we became attached at the hip."

It's eight pages of memories with French. In one part, she details a unique shared experience at the hands of their platoon sergeant.

"He walked to each of us, and put a single glass marble in our hand," said McCarter, "Carrie and I shared confused glances."

"'These marbles are like your future, mostly clear, but there is no way to know what's on the other side,'" McCarter details, "'Stay safe, I expect to get these marbles back from each and every one you at the end of this deployment and whatever you do, don't lose your marbles!'"

After a devastating loss, the two came up with a plan.

"She finally said, 'I'll keep my marble in my shower bag. If anything ever happens to me, I want you to take care of it; I want you to have it,'" McCarter said.

A plan they hoped would never need to be put into action until it did. On June 5, 2005, Carrie French was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq.

Marisa said the word "hysterical" doesn't begin to cover it.

"'Carrie" I interrupted, Carrie French, sir? 19-year-old Carrie French, sir?'" said McCarter.

"Then out of nowhere, the words, 'I'll find it,'" said McCarter, "The words came out before I knew what they meant, the marble popped into my head, and anxiety gripped my heart."

Marisa was not allowed access to Carrie's things per protocol. She performed the ramp ceremony, with the thought of the marble still on her mind.

Sometime later, something unexpected came in the mail from Carrie's mom.

"When I opened it, my world stopped, beneath a pile of pictures, and a letter was a hard glass sphere with a tiny yellow swirl," said McCarter.

Carrie's mother sent Marisa the marble.

Marisa continues to honor Carrie's legacy, even having her in her wedding. This story is now being used for an artist to potentially render a figurine in the Idaho Veterans Garden that resembles French.

"And with our marbles sitting side by side, I kept my little promise," said McCarter.

6 On Your Side is following up with the Idaho Veterans Garden.