I was about 9 or 10 years of age when my sister gave me a Vietnam Prisoner of War bracelet. She explained that US soldiers, fighting in Vietnam, were being captured and held prisoner by our enemy. I was not to remove the bracelet until all the prisoners of war had returned. I had grown accustomed to hearing casualty figures on the CBS Nightly News as my parents watched television while we ate supper; so I understood, (or so, I think, I remember) as to why this was important to her.
In 1973, Operation Homecoming took place, and I remember watching on TV, as returning POWs disembarked their plane and stepped onto US soil (pavement)
At some point after that, I removed my little bracelet and placed it in a drawer. After 40-something years, that POW bracelet of mine became lost in the history and numerous re-locations of our family. Sad.
Upon returning home many POWs wrote books detailing their years in captivity. I remember reading excerpts in condensed versions of their books in my Dad’s Reader’s Digest book that came monthly to our home.
One sentence, in one book, stuck with me all these years. A few days ago, I searched Google with a couple of keywords and found the quote by Lt. Everett Alvarez.
“The starvation diet rapidly drained my strength and sapped my will. Sometimes I lifted the cover off a plate and found a chicken head floating in grease, or in a slimy stew or soup smelling of drainwater”
I have read other books detailing the tortures and humiliation these prisoners endured and I have always remembered.
As a grateful Nation, we owe it to all who put on the uniform of the United States to remain unwavering in our promise to them. With hearts full of love, families carry on with an unfillable void, and we stand beside them — one and all — acutely aware of the cost at which our liberty comes. Today and every day, let us renew our pledge to never stop working to bring home the ones they love to the land they risked everything to protect.
On Veterans’ Day we honor all members of The Armed Services of the United States. On Memorial Day, we honor those members who lost their lives in service to their country. Today, we remember military personnel, who fought a different kind of war.
They fought an enemy, not with guns; but with their minds, their courage, their resolute will to survive. Only a small number made it back home. Their “brothers’ either died in captivity or were never found.
They deserve to be remembered. And we should not tuck our memories in a drawer to be lost in history–we should remember, “until they all come home.