I hadn't thought about the POW bracelet I wore in the 70s for a long time until last night. There was an image during some bumper footage used between a commercial and the return to the football game of a mass of dog tags hanging from a ceiling. Not sure what then reminded me of the bracelet, but there you have it.

Did any of you wear one during the Viet Nam conflict? Here's what I can recall: I "sent away" for it and then wore it religiously, day and night. I can't recall the name of the man carved into the metal. But I think that his capture date was included. Does anyone remember this? And there was a period of time when the names of returning soldiers were printed in very tiny font in the Boston Globe. Daily, weekly? I can't recall, but my mother would show me when the list came out and I'd scan down for the man's name.

Then one day, there it was. He was home. I wrote a letter in long hand (I couldn't type then and I doubt we even owned a typewriter) and mailed it, and the bracelet, back to the veteran. I never heard from him. And the silence made me wonder what had become of him, for even at my young age, I think we were well aware by then that many of these soldiers came back wounded emotionally as well as physically. I seem to recall that he'd been in a POW camp for a long time.

Was the bracelet an awful reminder? An improper gesture on my part? Whoever he is and whatever happened, I hope he knew that I had the best intentions and that the gesture touched him. 

And a final thought. Every time I see troops watching a football game by satellite, or watching election returns, I cry. Actually, the National Anthem makes me cry. Just so many things about the personal sacrifice, the distance from home, the dedication to a really tough job. Thank you all, I say today, from the computer I am now old enough to type on. 



11/12/2012 22:49

I had one of those bracelets too. I lost mine somewhere along the line though and I don't know if my POW returned or not. My family and I just watched a movie recently, "Rescue Dawn" with Christian Bale, about a Vietnam POW who is able to escape. It is an okay movie and based on a true story. All I kept thinking though was that the scenery was gorgeous and what the heck were we doing there in the first place? In hindsight, it makes no sense at all for any of our young men (and probably some women) to have suffered and died in Vietnam. So, so sad. I recently saw the Vietnam Memorial Wall in D.C.--wow, is that a powerful experience! Incredibly powerful and incredibly heartbreaking.

Duncan Campbell
11/13/2012 07:21

Even though I served before the worst of Vietnam, I cried when I touched The Wall in Washington DC.

mistah charley, ph.d.
11/13/2012 08:12

A few years ago a letter of mine was published in a British newspaper, in which I said:

'I have concluded, with much sadness, that the American militarism that brought us war with Vietnam when I was young, and war with Iraq today, is not a flaw of our socioeconomic system, but a feature. I recommend to your writer, and to all interested readers, Eugene Jarecki’s documentary film, Why We Fight, which includes President Eisenhower’s warning about the influence of the “military-industrial complex”. Until our political leaders lead the fight against these “masters of war” (in Bob Dylan’s phrase), instead of speaking of US soldiers occupying foreign lands as “defending our freedom”, we can expect more war and ruinously expensive preparations for war.'

Through a combination of circumstances (i.e. cable channel-surfing at the right time), on another occasion I found myself watching the opening ceremonies of a NASCAR race near Richmond, VA, not far from where I went to high school. It was a glittering pastiche of religion and patriotism - the Pledge of Allegiance led by a quartet of soldiers (black and white, male and female) from Fort Lee, where my late father Colonel Charley served for several years; the U.S. Marine Band performing the National Anthem; a minister asking God's blessing not only on "the sport we love" but "our soldiers overseas, defending our freedom".

To the audience, it was ritual giving visible and audible form to their Love of Country, God and one's fellow human beings; I'm sure they swelled with pride as they pledged loyalty to the Flag, symbol of our forefathers and the sacrifices they made to give us all we have today. Meanwhile, as I watched this spectacle at home, I felt sick at heart as I thought that this handsome facade means, in practice, not just wholesale theft from the American people, but mass murder committed by a fmeretriciously mislabeled "Department of Defense" . What will it take to rip the mask off, to break the trance?

Recently I read the Wikipedia entry about Muhammad Asad, born Leopold Weiss – a remarkable story. In looking at the publicity materials for the documentary film about him, titled A Road to Mecca, I found the following sentence: “I fell in love with Islam,” he said matter-of-factly shortly before his death in 1992, “but I overestimated the Muslims.” Similarly, I feel like someone who fell in love with the idea of America that I learned as a boy, but has been greatly disappointed by the reality of it, and of us.

My father and I had clashed very much when I was younger – at the end he was my best friend. A few months before his death in 2009 he was reminiscing about how, when he was part of the occupation of Japan in 1945 and 1946, the Japanese did everything they could to make the Americans comfortable. I said, "They'd had enough of war." He said, "I wonder when this country will have enough of war." The end of his Army career was during the Vietnam War, which he always considered a terrible mistake and a great tragedy. A lifelong Republican, during the G.W. Bush years he became an independent and donated several times to Obama. I tried not to call his attention to how disappointing the Obama regime had been.

Today, the same British newspaper that my letter was published in called, in its lead editorial, for "Rethink on drones after Petraeus exit." They note that since the September 11 attacks, "the CIA has shifted from being an inteliigence-gathering operation to a paramilitary organisation that kills terrorist suspects in Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa. Gen. Petraeus's appoint to the CIA in 2011 after 37 years in the miltary crstallised that shift. This year he reportedly ordered a big expansion in the CIA;s fleet of killer dromes to step up operations against jihadists. But such drone operations are increasingly questionable on legal, moral and political grounds....Such actions...ultimately act against US interests. As Kurt Volker, the former US ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush, has argued, they give foreigners the impression that the US is a country 'with a permanent kill list.' "

As a foreigner wrote, a couple of hundred years ago, in a poem inspired by seeing an insect on a hat on a lady at church:

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Laura Novak
11/13/2012 09:15

I've only driven by the memorial. Next time I will stop. I too imagine I'll cry. It was a senseless war, one that permeated our childhood. I recall with great clarity a teacher in our school who was also a neighbor. She had a daughter who was, as they said back then, "severely mentally retarded" who lived in an institution and visited home. They had a son who was on his way home from VN and was killed en route. He'd served his time and country and the awful irony was that the journey home is what killed him. They say that she was taken out of the junior high building screaming. Later, the neighbor ladies walked up the street in black shift dresses and pearls for the funeral. I was terrified every time I trick or treated at their house. Of what, I'm not sure.

You are all right, of course. It was for naught. And it's no better now. We keep moving in where we belong and killing those we have no right to kill. Your analysis and story say it better than I ever could MC. Thank you for sharing.

11/13/2012 10:38

I was a Jane Fonda girl. No bracelet for me. I was just angry at it all. And yes, the Memorial is a very powerful experience. One of my dearest friends in high school is on the WALL.

What M.C. writes above has particular relevance given today's new scandal news involving the Afghanistan general. That these men are sending thousands of emails and having affairs while men and women die and are maimed and traumatized just makes me angry all over again.

A friend's daughter joined the Marines out of Princeton. She rose high as an officer and when she left, was given a job by a Princeton alum in investment banking. All of it felt very calculated, like a man. I can't help but feel women should be smarter NOT to join the military. And thank god, I can be anonymous on here and write that.

11/13/2012 13:18

I didn't need a bracelet. I had friends/classmates who died there fighting that hopeless/needless war. An ex-boyfriend included. I had friends who came back maimed both physically and mentally. I've had friends die long years after due to exposure to Agent Orange. No, I didn't need a bracelet.

It was during that war that I truly learned to hate the government/MIC. Nothing since has made me feel much different about it. But active hate takes too much energy that could be spent otherwise, so I am just jaded and mostly keep my thoughts on the subject to myself. Except where I am anonymous... as V-A so aptly states. :-)

It has been posited that the ACTUAL reason for the US being in VN was because Big Oil wanted access to offshore oil there. I wouldn't doubt it. That was why Bush sent our children to die in Iraq.

War is WRONG. It has always BEEN wrong. Nothing good comes from it, never has. One doesn't have to be a part of any religion to understand that.

Come to think of it, it was the Kent State massacre that finally sent me off the deep end.

11/13/2012 13:30

I had friends who wore those bracelets but I never got one, even though I wanted one. I don't remember why I didn't. However I do remember they got together and sent the bracelets somewhere to be turned into some sort of statue/memorial. I think you did a good thing sending your bracelet to the soldier, by the way.

Laura Novak
11/13/2012 16:47

Nice, Cyndi. Strange to think that they actually posted the man's address in the newspaper, and oddly innocent gesture for a time that had truly seen the loss of innocence.

Thanks V-A for writing it. Yes, women and the military. Another topic to be sure. It flies in the face of my pacifism.

And Frosty, you said it well and strongly. Nothing good came from any of these wars you mention. By the way, what ever happened to Judy Miller of the NYTs? Was her payout so big that she could go hide somewhere for the rest of her career? And Scooter, wonder what he's up to.

New post ready for tomorrow morning on you know what. Night for now, everyone. Keep commenting here if you so wish.

12/27/2012 07:34

I see that this is a very nice bracelet. Unique design.

Maria Lee
03/10/2013 23:00

I still have my POW Bracelet. I wore it religiously. He did come home. I was able to contact him when he returned in the early 1970's. I asked if I could keep the bracelet. He said YES. This Man is still alive!!! He is in his 80's and still has a clear mind. I was searching the net to see where did I even get the bracelet? Did we send away for them??? I can't remember.

Laura Novak
03/11/2013 11:02

THanks for that nice story, Maria Lee. How heartwarming. And yes, we did send away for them. Through the newspaper? Cereal box? I can't recall. Thanks for writing in!

03/13/2013 12:11

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04/15/2013 03:35

the pow type bracelets were in during the 70s and still it is in trend. I like the color of your bracelet and its material is really good. I like the way you have explained it. Thankyou for posting these kind of stuffs so that I too can make plans to get these kinds of design build

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