Monday, May 29, 2017

The Bracelet I Wore

This Memorial Day has a particular poignancy for me. I have not, personally, lost someone in battle who was serving in the armed forces, but my best friend has - her brother - in the first Gulf War. He was as dear to her as my brother is to me, so I felt her loss of him very keenly. Every Memorial Day, I remember him. I also remember someone else, though there is another date on which I honor him too: May 18th. That is the day Lt. Cdr. Vincent D. Monroe was lost in Vietnam, and remained Missing in Action until 1978. I wore his POW bracelet, as many others did, from about 1972 until that day in 1978 that I read in the paper that his remains were identified and sent home to be buried at Arlington. I sent my bracelet to his family, but don't remember getting a response from them, which is fine.

Yesterday, the day before Memorial Day, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and there was a segment on about a troop of soldiers called The Lost Platoon. On May 18th, 1967, they were ambushed, and most of them were massacred. Some saved their own lives by playing dead for 15 hours, many gravely wounded. When I saw this segment, I burst into tears. I figured Vincent D. Monroe had to be among those who died that day, given the date, but I had gotten the year wrong. Googling his name, I was reminded that he actually went missing on May 18, 1968 - exactly a year later. His plane was shot down and he and his co-pilot parachuted to the ground. That was the last that was seen of them. It was assumed that they were taken prisoner, and that Vincent died sometime after.

Knowing these details about him made me feel closer to him. I always did feel close - when I first visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., I sought out his name there, and of course, there was the remembrance of him every May 18th and Memorial Day. Today, though, I'm shedding fresh tears for him.

I found a sight where you could post memorials to lost soldiers, and I posted one on his page, along with several others, this one from his grandson:

Dear Grandfather,
I wish there would have been a chance to have met you. I've always seen photos, medals, awards, visited the wall, and visited your have in Arlington Cemetery. 
Grandmother, Suzanne B. Monroe always told me about you and always mentioned how good of a man you we're!
Uncle, James Monroe,
Mom, Anne (Monroe)King,
Aunt, Claire (Monroe)Baratelli,
They all told me about when they were kids how you were all ways there for them and loved them.
One day I will be able to ascend to heaven and finally meet you my Grandfather! CDR. Vincent D. Monroe 
I'm honored to be able to have Your Name VINCENT a part of my name! I even gave my son your name VINCENT as well.
Thank you for your bravery and courage,
Love your First born Grandson!

I am glad he is so honored. Rest in peace, Vincent. I will never forget you.