Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Editor's note: This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah and U.S. history for KSL.com's Historic section.SALT LAKE CITY — I never met John McCain, but I had a special connection to him for many years.
When the Vietnam War was still going on in 1970, young people in Southern California, where I grew up, started wearing POW/MIA bracelets. A student group sold them for $2.50. I sent in my money and a few weeks later, an aluminum bracelet arrived in the mail with a randomly selected name on it.
The idea: to keep the memory of the POWs and MIAs alive, and to wear the bracelet until they came home or were otherwise identified.
The name etched on my bracelet was "LCDR John McCain."
At the time, I had never heard of him, but through occasional TV news reports and newspaper stories, I learned that he was shot down near Hanoi, captured and barely survived. He spent more than five years in captivity.
I wore the bracelet for about three years until I watched him on TV limp off the plane when he finally arrived back in the United States in 1973.
Months later, I received a copy of a handwritten letter from John McCain, thanking all of us who wore his bracelet and for our prayers and support. It reads in part: “It has been a very moving experience for me to receive a flood of letters and bracelets since my return. I am convinced that all your efforts along with the support given President Nixon are directly responsible for my safe return. It is extremely gratifying to know that so many people in America care … .”
There were 726 POWs in Vietnam; 661 eventually returned home. Roughly five million bracelets were sold and distributed between 1970 and 1976.
John McCain’s legacy is well known, of course, and since I had his name on my wrist for several years, I always paid attention to what he was doing during his long career.
I’m not an avid memorabilia collector, but over the years I’ve kept a few things in a box or a drawer that I thought were interesting.
I’m glad I kept this.