Bracelet unites Navy veteran and Air Force veteran taken as POW during the Vietnam Conflict
PHOENIX - A Prisoner of War bracelet from the 1970s has managed to unite a U.S. Navy veteran and an Air Force veteran on Mar. 3.
Lt. Col. Bob Jeffrey was taken as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam Conflict, and it was that bracelet that gave him hope during the hardest time of his life.
"It’s got his name and rank and when he was captured," said Brenda Johnson, a Navy veteran of 22 year who ordered the bracelet when the POW/MIA Bracelet Program began in 1970. "You didn’t know who you were going to get. It was just random, and I got it and wore it for a couple of years."
Johnson held on to it to this day, and through the internet, she was connected with the person whose name she wore for years: Lt. Col, Jeffrey.
"Did you know what this bracelet means to us?" said Lt. Col. Jeffrey.
"I'm sure a lot," Johnson replied.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey was captured on Dec. 20, 1965, right after his aircraft took a direct hit. He ejected and blacked out while the North Vietnamese shot at him from a field below.
"When you first arrived at Hỏa Lò -- the Hanoi Hilton, which was the nickname for it -- in Hanoi, they ran you through a program to break you using torture," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey.
Over the next seven years, Lt. Col. Jeffrey moved to eight different POW camps.
"They didn't release prisoner lists. Families back home didn't know whether we were alive or not. The way I was shot down, the way the airplane disintegrated, the rest of my flight pilots in the other three airplanes said there was no way I could have survived, so they came back saying I was dead," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey.
It has been 50 years since Lt. Col. Jeffrey walked out of a POW camp, and he still remembers feeling a boost of morale when he first heard about the bracelets.
"They were true and faithful supporters," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey. "They helped bring us back home, so you know, I have the utmost admiration for these people."
Lt. Col. Jeffrey said he has received about 100 of the bracelets over the last 50 years. He donated them to a Dallas nonprofit that plans to make a memorial out of the bracelets.
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