Death of former POW reminds PV woman of Vietnam-era tribute
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Sitting at a corner table in a crowded Starbucks, Prescott Valley resident, Cathy Higgins, 60, carefully sets a colorful pouch on the table.
"You probably don't remember the POW bracelets, do you," Higgins asked laughing as she pulled the bracelet from the pouch. "I have had this bracelet since 1970. I wore it throughout the Vietnam War."
It wasn't until a few weeks ago that Higgins was reminded of the silver colored bracelet, bearing the name of a POW, tucked away in her jewelry box.
"I was watching the news and John McCain came on talking about his friend, Col. George Day that died and how they had been in a POW camp together," Higgins said. "I couldn't figure out why that name rang a bell."
Day died on July 27 at the age of 88 in his home in Shalimar, Fla., after a long illness, according to the Associated Press.
Next to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Day was one of the most highly decorated servicemen in the nation. Day earned more than 70 medals, including the Medal of Honor, during his service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
McCain's announcement sparked something in Higgins' memory and she immediately began a pursuit to find the POW bracelet.
"The amazing part was that I knew where the bracelet was, because I've moved a lot since 1970," Higgins said. "But sure enough when I found it, it was Col George Day's name on it."
Higgins purchased the stainless steel bracelet engraved with Day's name and date he was taken prisoner for $2.50 in 1970. She was just 17-years-old at the time.
"The bracelets were an awareness thing for the Vietnam War," Higgins said. "They wanted to keep people aware that we had lots of men over there that were missing."
And while Higgins said she was sad to hear that Day had died, she was relieved to learn that he did get released from the prison and went on to live a happy life.
Higgins is hoping to connect with McCain so that she can give the bracelet to Day's family.
"Somebody in the family needs to have this bracelet," Higgins said. "This means something more to them than it does to me. It obviously means something to me, because I wouldn't have kept it all these years, but they should have it."
The bracelets were the brainchild of college students and Voices in Vital America (VIVA) members, Carol Bates and Kay Hunter, from Los Angeles, as a way to remember American prisoners of war, according to an article written by Bates on the website www.thewall-usa.com.
The organization produced and distributed the bracelets during the Vietnam War with the help of entertainers and honorary co-chairs Bob Hope and Martha Raye.
The bracelets came in a variety of finishes and often included the serviceman's name, rank, and loss date. The bracelets ranged in price from $2.50 up to $3 each.
"We were amazed at the interest of the wives and parents in having their man's name put on bracelets and in obtaining them for distribution," Bates wrote. "We formed a close alliance with the relatives of the missing men."
The bracelet program kicked off on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1970. Money raised from the sale of the bracelets helped fund various programs publicizing the POW/MIA issue in Vietnam. The organization sold nearly five million bracelets until it closed its doors in 1976.