POW/MIA Bracelets

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR 

This is not really a Masonic piece, yet it somehow seems to fit in with our Masonic values in remembering the sacrifices some men and women make.

Contrary to public opinion, especially today's unenlightened public opinion, many Vietnam war protests were at their foundation about and in support of the soldiers over there fighting that war. As the war was winding down people began to realize that, while we were about to get our precious young men and women out of there, some might be left behind. We knew there would remain many prisoners of war and also those unaccounted-for and missing.

The North Vietnam government, on the brink of taking over the entire country, had never been communicative about the status of those soldiers; and we had no reason to believe that would change. The prospect of the unified Democratic Republic of Vietnam (actually not democratic and not a republic) controlling the entire country and keeping POWs and MIAs seemed possible, even likely.

That terrifying thought morphed into a movement designed to ensure the POWs and MIAs be remembered and eventually brought home. As a symbolic gesture, many of us wore a metal bracelet containing the name of a missing or captive soldier and vowed not to take it off until that soldier or, sadly, his body returned home. My bracelet was in honor and support of Colonel Kenneth Fleenor; my wife Carolyn's bore the name of Major Terry Uyeyama. 

Colonel Kenneth Robert Fleenor's F-4 Phantom fighter jet was shot down December 17, 1967, near Hanoi. During his captivity, he endured torture, isolation, and starvation. After a grueling five years and three months of imprisonment, Colonel Fleenor was released in March 1973. He completed a successful military and business career, retiring from the US Air Force as a Brigadier General. He also served as Mayor of Selma, Texas 1987-1994. He died December 10, 2010, at 81 years of age.


Air Force Major Terry Uyeyama was forced to eject from his plane May 18, 1968, and was captured and taken prisoner of war. He endured the same punishment and torture as other prisoners for nearly five years. A Silver Star recipient, he returned to the US March 14, 1973, and retired from the Air Force in 1980 with the rank of Colonel. Born July 16, 1935, Colonel Uyeyama is now nearly 85 years of age, living in Texas. 

Today the Department of Defense still lists 1,587 Americans as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. Nonetheless, in March 1973, Carolyn and I both were able to remove our bracelets. They have sat on the desk in my office at home ever since.

I do not know if the two men whose stories are told above were Masons. In this case, I also don't think it matters much.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.