Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, circa 1972 or 1973, my mom got us all an MIA/POW bracelet -- us being my sister, my mom and me. The bracelets were worn as a reminder that there were American servicemen who were either being held prisoner in Vietnam or were missing in action. I don't remember where or how my mom got the bracelets but I know she had to send a few bucks to somebody for each one. On the bracelet was the name of the POW or MIA, his rank, his branch of the service and the date he was captured or went missing.

My sister's bracelet was for Air Force Major Donavan Lyon, who was the father of one of my classmates. I thought he had been captured and held as a POW. But from what I've found on the internet, in March 1968, he and his pilot ejected from their plane after being shot at over Laos. His pilot was captured and became a POW but Major Lyon was not found and was declared MIA.

The name on my mom's bracelet was Major Gerald F. Ayers. He, too, was in the Air Force and was listed as MIA on June 18, 1972. In 1994, the Air Force announced it had identified the remains of thirteen servicemen who had been killed in Vietnam, including Major Gerald Ayers. I read on one website that the identification was made through DNA testing on some teeth and bone fragments that were found near the crash site where Major Ayers was shot down.

My bracelet was for SFC William T. Brown. For years, all I knew about him was he was in the Army and went MIA on 3 Nov 69.

I used to look at my bracelet and wonder about him. Was he married? Did he have kids? Where was he from? What did he look like? I'm not sure what inspired me but a few years ago, I went searching on the internet for information, not only on SFC William T. Brown, but for Major Lyon and Major Ayers as well.

I discovered that SFC Bill Brown was born in Chicago but had moved to La Habra, CA, which really wasn't all that far from where I live. He wasn't married, he had two brothers, he was a Presbyterian, he was a member of the Green Berets. He was six months into his second tour of Vietnam when his patrol unit was attacked in Laos. He was last seen on the ground, shot just below his rib cage but alive, on November 3, 1969. It took a week and a day for a search and rescue team to get to the site but nothing was found. No bodies, no graves and no equipment belonging to SFC Brown or his fellow soldiers so they were declared MIA. There's a picture of him here and the website for the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial has a listing for him.

From The Virtual Wall site: "On 08 January 1979 the Secretary of the Army approved a Presumptive Finding of Death for SFC William Brown, changing his status to Died while Missing/Body not Recovered. As of 18 Nov 2006 his remains have not been repatriated."

According to The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, the number of Americans still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War is 1,786.

I always remember these three on Memorial Day.


Suzan said...

Very touching post. Those bracelets made those men very real for you. We must remember all those brave men and women who have fought for our freedom.

Hawk said...

Dear Patti,

Bill Brown was a friend of mine. We were in the same unit in Vietnam; that's where we met. If you're interested in learning a little more about him, I would be happy to write you via email.

I had already returned to the U.S. when Bill and his team went missing on Nov. 3, 1969. I have thought of him every day since I learned he was MIA. I have a MIA bracelet with his name on it, too.

Thank you for thinking about Bill all these years.


Hawk said...

Patti, I knew Bill Brown in Vietnam. I would be happy to write you by email if you would like to learn a little more about him.