While the general public is increasingly ambivalent about America’s military role abroad, the trend for “tribute knives” honoring a fallen soldiers, sailor, airmen or marine continues. The magnificent piece above celebrates the life and service of Marine Sgt. Joseph Caskey, killed in Afghanistan on June 26, 2010. It was commissioned by Caskey’s high school buddy Josh Trembula. “We were good buddies, good friends,” Trembula told triblive.com. “I’m thankful for what he did for us and our country.” American Bladesmith Society Master Smith Ray Rybar designed and created the meisterwerk. As TTAK’s edged intelligentsia no doubt know the knife’s similar to . . .
the Marines KA-BAR combat knife of the World War II era. But Rybar’s piece has additional symbolism. The sam-mai blade — sam-mai means combination — is made up of 1,000 layers of steel on one side and 1,000 layers of steel on the other.
“It’s symbolic of all the Joes who have fallen from Tripoli on and all the Joes who will fall,” Rybar said. “Inside is a tooled-steel core, the strength of the Corps. The 2,001 pieces easily hold.”
On the knife cap are the words “Semper Fidelis,” the Marine Corps motto, and “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” from Hebrews 13:5.
Although this style of the approximately 13-inch knife with an inscription is Rybar’s claim to fame, he never has made it specifically for a Marine. This one, he came to know in spirit only, he said.
The handle is made of alligator juniper.
“What’s tougher than an alligator?” said Rybar, a Vietnam veteran, with a chuckle.
Carbon fiber? Micarta? Troy Landry? Just messin’. I can think of no better tribute to a soldier’s valor than a custom knife—unless it’s continuing to defend the values for which they fought including, of course, the simple but profound joys of comradeship.