29 July 2005

A Silver Band on My Wrist

After logging many hours watching the Tour de France, I was amazed at how often a yellow bracelet showed up prominently in the camera shot. Walking down the street, I see bracelets of every color for every cause – most of them quite worthy. I've learned what a few of the bracelet colors stand for, and I am very impressed with the amount of awareness these bracelets have generated. People are talking about things which were previously kept under wraps. Today, many people recognize the meaning and significance of a bright yellow or olive drab bracelet.

I don’t remember the exact day, but it was 19 years ago that I placed a simple silver band on my right wrist. Nothing special. Nothing fancy. It is just a simple silver band with a man’s name on it. As you might have guessed, the band is a POW / MIA bracelet. A few months after I left active duty in the Coast Guard in 1986, I read an article about the various groups working to bring home the remains of the men and women left behind in Viet Nam. I recall contacting one of the groups -- Task Force Omega -- and a few weeks later a padded envelope arrived in my mailbox. I opened the envelope, took out the band, shaped it to fit my 22-year old wrist and went about my life. The funny thing was, nothing accompanied the band. No data sheet, no story; nothing but a simple silver band and a receipt.

The band has gotten a bit scratched over the years. My skin near the ends of the band has developed a dark brown appearance and has become slightly calloused. Sometimes the band gets snagged on the shirt I am wearing. A few times, it has gotten caught on lines or rigging on a boat. Every now and then, someone will look at my wrist and give me a nod, and a few times it has prompted a co-worker to ask if I was diabetic or allergic to something. More often than not, it gives me the opportunity to tell someone the name on the band.

Now I can tell you. The band reads Capt. Ronald L. Bond USAF 9-30-71 LAOS.

I have looked at this name and date every day of my life for the past 19 years.

I don’t know Captain Bond, but I know he was born in 1947 in Camden, New Jersey. I never met Captain Bond, but I know that he played little league, was on the wrestling and diving teams in high school and graduated near the top of his class. I never met Captain Bond, but I know he turned down a letter of acceptance to the University of Delaware and accepted an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 1969. Captain Bond was shot down over Laos on 30 September 1971. He, along with his F4 Pilot Mike Donovan, was never found alive. 600 other men lost in Laos never came home. Not one was ever released from a POW camp. Not a single one.

Now you, too, know a little about Ronald Bond.

I wish I really knew Captain Bond, I'll bet he was a good man.

As always, thanks to Mudville Gazette for their Open Post.

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