National POW Remembrance Day: A Promise Made, a Promise Kept
by Michael Bama Katt
Friday was National POW Remembrance Day. I’ve been wearing Sergeant Wallace’s bracelet for quite some time. I bought it on Okinawa back in ’69, when I was 8. My brother and I had a paper route, delivering the Stars and Stripes to off-base U.S. Military around where we lived in Ginawan City. I used to tell people our route covered ¼ of the island, but I’m willing to admit it’s possible that’s a slight exaggeration. But it WAS big. If I remember correctly, it took a little under two hours to cover it. And to cut it down to THAT time we short cut through a lot of jungle, scrambled up some rocks, and climbed over a wide patch of tombs. So our bikes were useless to us.
We saved up our route money for a couple months to buy these bracelets. I can still see the little old lady with the huge glasses lean in to me: “Now you understand you’re making a promise to not take this off until he comes home, don’t you, dear?” Yes ma’am. I truly do.
I eventually resigned myself to never knowing what ultimately became of him. Library books aren’t much help for a thing like that, and as far as I knew they’d be the only resource ever open to me. Then the internet happened.
I finally got the details. And a picture! Lord have mercy, I finally saw the man who’s name had been on my wrist since 1969. I can’t explain this, but it actually hurt a little the first time I laid eyes on him. My imagination threw a LOT of images of him at me over the years. A laughing smile as he and his wife held their two babies wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t just a bracelet anymore. He was a husband and a dad and a soldier. He was wrapping Christmas presents.
And he never was a POW. Pitched out of a shot down helicopter, he still rests in the jungle canopy over Vietnam. He’s never coming home. And his bracelet is never coming off.
All the respect in the world, Sergeant Wallace. You were never forgotten.
SFC Michael J. Wallace
MIA 19 Apr 68
Bama has been a rodeo cowboy, a professional stuntman, and, for 38 years and counting, a bouncer at various biker bars and redneck rat cage juke joints through the Deep South. He makes cool stuff as Crimson Tied Paragear, using knots his Army Ranger Scoutmaster taught him at Boy Scout summer camp deep in the Okinawan boonies back in 1972.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal September 23, 2019.
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