In my jewelry box there is a bracelet. It’s been there since 1971, give or take a year. It’s made of aluminum and cost me about $2.50. On it is the name of a man who served his country in Vietnam and had been reported Missing in Action. It’s not at all attractive but I wore it every day for years. I don’t remember why or when I stopped wearing it - maybe when I started seeing one of my future ex-husbands who had been in Vietnam and lost a lot of buddies there. All I remember is that one day I took it off, put it in my jewelry box, and shut the lid on it.
Every now and then I clear out my jewelry box. Sometimes I get an entirely new jewelry box and decide to purge before I put anything into the new one. I discard some things and give away others. Each time I purge, a few items go into a smaller box for things that have meaning for me but that I probably won’t ever wear again.
Not this bracelet, though. That MIA bracelet I stopped wearing probably 30 years ago still sits in the top of my jewelry box where I see it every time I open the lid. I promised that I would never forget . . and I haven’t.
I’m not sure why, but today I decided to look up Lt. Wilson “Denver” Key. I learned that he was a Navy pilot who had been shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and held in a POW camp until 1973. He was released then, along with some 500 other POWs. I also learned that some people had sent their bracelets back to the families of those who had returned, and others continued to wear them, because their MIAs had never returned.
Not me, though. I’m going to hold on to Lt. Key’s bracelet. Because when I look at it I don’t just think about that one man who was MIA. I remember all of them - the MIAs and POWs and KIAs and the ones who did return home . . . from Vietnam and Cambodia and Zaire and El Salvador and Libya and Grenada and Afghanistan and and Kuwait and Iran and Iraq and Bosnia and Somalia and where ever our men and women have been deployed.
I remember, and I say a prayer, just as I have ever since 1971 or thereabouts.