Home Fires Burn for POWs/MIAs
Kelly Patricia O'Meara
Summary - In 1970, three college students began
making bracelets to remember servicemen. Thirty years later, U.S.
soldiers are still missing and Americans continue to wear the bracelets.
It was on June 30, 1967, while carrying out his
179th bombing mission over Southeast Asia, that 27-year-old Navy pilot Mike
McGrath's A4C Skyhawk was hit by antiaircraft artillery just south
of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. With no time to radio his
location, McGrath ejected from his crippled aircraft and landed in a
kind of hell few have known.......
When the prisoners of war were repatriated to
the United States from North Vietnam in 1973 during Operation
Homecoming, there was great public interest about how their years in
captivity may have affected them. The following numbers speak for
* Seven POWs were awarded the Medal of Honor:
Vice Adm. Jim Stockdale, U.S. Navy;
Col. Bud Day, U.S. Air Force;
Col. Don Cook (posthumously), U.S. Marine
and Capt. Lance Sijan (posthumously), U.S.
Air Force - all for action above and beyond the call of duty as POWs.
Col. Leo Thorsness, U.S. Air Force;
Sgt. Maj. Jon Cavaiani, U.S. Army;
and Sgt. William Port, U.S. Army - all for
heroism prior to being captured.
* 137 Vietnam-era POWs are graduates of one of
the four military academies.
* 80 percent of the POWs who were repatriated
remained in the military and retired with a minimum of 20 years service.
* 24 Vietnam-era POWs were promoted to flag
* 16 POWs have held other public offices with
Everett Alvarez, former deputy director of
the Peace Corps and former deputy administrator of the Veterans
Lawrence Chesley, former Arizona state
Thomas Collins, former undersecretary of
Jeremiah Denton, former U.S.senator.
John Downey, Connecticut Superior Court
Mark Gartley, former Maine secretary of
Samuel Johnson, U.S. representative.
Joseph Kernan, governor of Indiana.
John McCain, U.S. senator, former U.S.
representative, currently a candidate for the GOP nomination for
Douglas Peterson, ambassador to Vietnam
and former U.S. representative.
John Pritchford, former mayor of Natchez,
Ben Purcell, former Georgia state
Orson Swindle, federal trade commissioner
and former assistant secretary of commerce.
Leo Thorsness, former Washington state
James Warner, former senior White House
Ronald Webb, former assistant secretary of
the Federal Aviation Administration.
** Jack Zeider, was the owner of Midway Stamping and Die Works
in Santa Monica, California. In order to produce enough of these
bracelets, on a minimal budget, Jack ran crews 24-hours a day.
He and Shirley Zeider, my sister-in-law, ran the day crew and
my husband Richard Zeider, a college student at the time, ran the night
crew. While Jack manufactured the bracelets his brother, Bob
Zeider, did the engraving and my mother-in-law, Ruth Zeider, kept
the books. It was truly a family effort and the only
affordable way the bracelets could be produced for VIVA. For
a period of time the Zeiders were producing 50,000 bracelets
Dr. Richard & Janet Zeider