An overdue thank you to P.O.W. Lt. Col. James Young

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I am a tail-end baby boomer. Seems as if most people 45 and up equate their existence with being some sort of post war child…. be it WWII, Korea- as in my case, or Vietnam. An entire new generation will, no doubt, look to Desert Storm and the continued “wars” on terror as defining birthing moments of their own.

I grew up in the shadow of a deepening Cold War which helped to spawn the Korean War—oh, let’s not forget to call it by it’s politically correct name shall we…”Police Action”…hummm…a war is a war is a war…. no matter how you try to paint it, but there I go digressing…
Which then spawned the Vietnam War; oh pardon me, Vietnam Conflict…and so forth and so on…

When I was in the 6th grade, it became a popular trend for us (as I suspect it was for the adults) to all buy and wear POW bracelets. The one pictured above is mine, the one I wore for almost two years—never taking it off. If I remember correctly, one could pay $3.00 (I found the receipt for my bracelet in the box mementos…it was $2.75) to whom and where the money went evades this memory of mine—- in return you would receive a stainless steel “bracelet” / band engraved with the name of a serviceman who was currently being held captive by the North Vietnamese. You might have received the name of a POW or the name of a serviceman who was currently MIA / missing in action. It was just kind of the luck of the draw as to the serviceman’s name, rank and branch of service you received.

I received the bracelet of a Lt. Col. James Young who had been a prisoner since 1966, taken captive just two days following the 4th of July—already imprisoned 6 years when I received his bracelet. To me and my young mind, the best way to comprehend that length of time was to think of how many Christmases he must have missed being from his family…. which was something, to me, absolutely inconceivable—a true affront to all I considered sacred—Christmas with your family. How dare they keep our American soldiers like that!! It truly struck a chord deep in my young impressionable heart.

Every night, for what seemed most of my young life and of the memory of that time, as we ate supper, we watched a small black and white television set perched in our kitchen of the nightly news conducted by the deans of nightly news, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Those were the days of real news and real reporting…none of this stuff of today’s biased argumentative dribble passed off as news—no hokey sappy feel good “anchors” who seem more concerned with lifestyle choices, entertainment and droll government bickering than what truly constitutes real news. It was delivered professionally and basically unemotionally. Eric Severid or Charles Karualt would report from Vietnam.

The journalist would give the number tally of the day. Staggering numbers, unheard of numbers, the numbers listing each day’s deaths, those taken prisoner, those simply missing—ours, theirs, both. By the time I was in the 7th grade the newspapers were running the lists of names of those killed, wounded, or missing. Each day of our 7th grade year we would all scan the newspaper in search of word of our “soldier, airman, marine or sailor”—I suppose our teacher saw this as what is known as a “real teaching moment” something far more lasting than the lesson at hand, as she allowed us the time to scour a paper, to hope and perhaps even mourn.

I can remember very clearly, as if I am back in that classroom standing over the desk pouring over the paper, the day my friend found the name of her “soldier” on the list of those declared deceased by our government. We were all of the age of 11 and 12 and yet we felt a tremendous burden—a heavy sadness—rooting and cheering for men we had never met and most likely would never know personally, and yet how devastating it was to “lose” them to a death that was so foreign to us– as this drama played out so very far away from our sheltered world. The bracelet would then come off.

I also remember most vividly the day it was announced that this “war” was declared “over” and a peace accord was being signed by both our country’s two governments. On Valentines Day, most appropriately, 1973 the many American prisoners, many wounded and on stretchers, would slowly begin to transition from captivity to freedom, being loaded in batches of approximately 40 or so onto air force transport planes which were to carry them all, finally, home. Seven years just past the first day he was taken prisoner, Lt. Col. James Young headed home.

Warm tears are welling up in my eyes as I type this recalling, all these many years later, these most heartening of events. The bitter sweetness of the moment still very real, very palpable, very emotional. Coming home.

Our teacher checked out a television from the library, the ones perched on top of carts pushed to the room by the boys who volunteered to go get the carts long before this practice was deemed unsafe. She set the cart in the front of the room so we could all see the special news reports of those first prisoners landing at Clarke Air Force Base. I can still see, in my mind’s eye, Capt. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., the first POW to disembark the plane—his wife and daughter running, arms outstretched, to embrace him as he made his way down the ramp–now home on American Soil.

My POW, Lt. Col. Young, also came home—home to his family in Hollywood, Florida. Once he had returned, I wrote to Lt. Col. Young and his family. I can’t remember how I found his address. I in turn received two letters complete with pictures of Lt. Col. Young and his lovely family. His eldest daughter, Carrie, who was in her early 20’s when her dad finally returned home—she was but my age (at the time) when he was captured. She asked if I could have my name engraved on the bracelet that I had worn those two years, sending it to them as they were going to make a plaque of his bracelets.

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My mom took me to a jewelry store where I had my name engraved besides the name of Lt. Col. Young. I placed the bracelet in a zip-lock bag, writing one more letter. However at the last minute, I just couldn’t mail it. Something inside my young heart wanted to hold on to this tangible reminder of what this war had meant to me—a young 7th grade girl in Georgia.

All these many years later, I still have the bracelet, always knowing where it is. I recently did a Google search, attempting to discover where Lt. Col James Young was now—Sadly I learned that he had passed away a few years ago, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. A tortured prisoner of war, Lt. Col. James Young had seven years of his life stolen, only to lose his final battle to a cruel and unseen enemy. Life never seems quite fair.

On this 4th of July, as this country of ours has troops spread out all over this globe, risking everything they have to protect, defend and serve each of us here back home…as we enjoy a slice of watermelon, swimming or watching baseball, spending time with our families, enjoying the fireworks this evening—may we all give pause this day in order to say a silent prayer for their safety, for the comfort of their families and a grateful thanks to all the veterans, past and present, who have sacrificed so very much for the one important thing that makes us who we are—our Liberty.

Thank you Lt. Colonel James Young.

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57 comments on “An overdue thank you to P.O.W. Lt. Col. James Young

  1. Amanda says:

    A big thanks to all of our service men and women…past, present, and future. A beautiful piece Cookie… Thank you once again for sharing 🙂

    Love,
    Amanda

  2. Deb Pitts says:

    I am 60 years old and also had a bracelet with a soldier too! I wore it for 2-3 years I never knew what happened to him! I recently thought if we did this again and money from the bracelets went to helping veterans with disabilities make their homes better to live in or just to give them help. Imagine if everyone purchased one how much money that would be for them. My bracelet was bronze I think you could choose it was a little more money.. Thanks for the memories and sharing I wish I could remember his name :(. Deb

  3. phyllissnipes says:

    What a tangible reminder of what this day means. A salute to those who have sacrificed, many even unto death, for our freedom – which isn’t free!

  4. catnipoflife says:

    So beautiful, Cookie! Happy 4th of July! Thank you for bringing sunshine into my life…
    http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/a-summer-bouquet-blossoming-with-awards/

  5. Cookie, Wonderful story. I also wore his bracelet. I would love to return it to his family. I am hoping you can help me out with getting this treasured piece of history back to them.

    • Hi Dawn–I was out of town when I saw your response to the post, so I apologize for not touching base sooner. I was blown away reading that you also wore the same bracelet!! I wish I could tell you how to contact the family. It was a few months back when I started to do a little investigating and googling…that’s how I discovered that it appears as if, at some point, the family moved from Florida to California and that Lt. Col Young had died from a battle with Alzheimer’s. I was hoping that perhaps from the post I may or may not eventually find one of the daughters—what a wonderful link we now share 🙂 I’ll keep you posted to any word…
      Thank you for sharing and for letting me know about the bracelet—blessings—Julie

      • Julie,Thanks for your note. I also hope one of his children or someone who might know time family might spot it.We now have a bond that is rather unique. Do we have any idea is how many of each name they made? Thanks for your great message. Stay in touch. 🙂 Dawn

  6. Hi Dawn–I don’t know the numbers of bracelets made for each service member but that is a good question. I’ll do a little research into this and see what I find. I’m not a facebook person so my theater here is bit limited, but who knows…I always think if God wants something to come about, come it shall…
    I’ll let you know what I discover.
    Thank you for touching base—
    Julie

  7. I just found this interesting and slightly disturbing link. It gives the history of the bracelets but also provides a timeline of live American prisoners that are still held in Vietnam and of various news agencies reporting on such and of the Government’s supposed knowledge of such….don’t know too much about the validity of the site, but it does offer the history of the bracelets…
    http://www.avtt.org/pow-mia.htm

  8. David Meek says:

    I also have one of Col. Young’s bracelets. I remember my Mother only removing it when the occasion called for her to remove her wedding ring (Shower, dishes, etc…). I would help her women’s group with yard sales and collections to raise money so packages could be sent to the servicemen in Vietnam. I was young at the time, born 1961, but it meant a lot to me, and her, to do everything we could. I regret that the bracelet was not returned to Mr. Young himself to let him know how much everything he did was appreciated. It sets in a very visible place as a reminder of him and everyone else who does what they are called to do.

    • Hi David–thank you so much for letting me know that you too had a bracelet. It is amazing knowing now how many folks actually had the same bracelet that I had during those day’s long ago—I would love to eventually find one of the girls, his daughters, and let them know that there are several of us who have never forgotten their dad nor of the sacrifice their entire family made for all of us–Again, thank you for touching base—Julie

  9. Karen A says:

    I was just cleaning some old boxes and came across an article that I had saved about Lt. Col. James F Young since I also had his bracelet and wore it all of the time. I decided to check if I could find any relatives on facebook and then found this page . I still have the bracelet also and wish I would have sent it to the family. I would appreciate it if anyone has any information on this family that they would let me know also.

    • Oh Karen–I wish I had some more information but I don’t know any more now then I did when I wrote the post. I just keep hoping someone who reads the post may know where his daughters are— thank you for reaching out
      and we’ll keep our fingers crossed–
      blessings—Julie

  10. Linda says:

    Cookie,
    I was going thru my desk drawer and ran across my m.i.a. bracelet, that being Lt. Col. James Young, 07-06-66. I have often wondered whatever, or if he returned. Thanks to you Cookie,
    I now know, I read your beautiful piece and found myself tearing at the end. I am 67 and remember how many of my friends lost their lives and had their lives changed forever during this awful time.
    Thank you for sharing what you know about James Young. An answer to a question that always haunted me. I do believe I had several of the bracelets but this one, I still had, thank you again.
    Linda

    • Thank you Linda–for touching base regarding the post about Lt Col James Young and for your kind words.
      It was a terribly dark time in our history, and it seems we are in a continuum, just on a different level—
      I am glad I could help solve some of the mystery. I just wish I had tried reaching out to him and his family once I had “grown up”. Writing to them as 7th grader in 1972 I didn’t have a real scope of the magnitude of their ordeal—I just wish I had kept in touch.
      He was indeed an American hero!
      Again Linda—thank you for reaching out—
      Blessings and Grace–
      Julie (cookie)

  11. Renee Hunt says:

    On Christmas day we were going through a chest of family treasures. I showed my p.o.w. bracelet to my son. I also have Lt. Col. James Young. He’s been close in my heart for many years. A google search lead us to your post. Thank you Cookie for a beautiful post that so clearly states what so many of us felt. And yes, it is wonderful to see how many people wore the bracelet for Lt. Col. Young – I didn’t know about sending them back to the families; however, his bracelet is one of my dearest treasures.
    Merry Christmas,
    Renee

    • Merry Christmas to you as well Renee! Thank you so much for touching base regarding your POW bracelet. It really is pretty amazing how many of us wore the bracelets and how many of us had Lt Col. Young’s—
      What a special memory to share with your son.
      Wishing you and your family blessings this Christmas season!!
      Julie

  12. Joan Baker-Jones says:

    I too wore his bracelet and prayed for him each night. When the POW’s came home, their names would be listed in the paper and I remember scanning those pages looking for his name. Thank you for your post – I am 61 and I think of him often. I hope he is resting in peace now. He will always be my hero. Joan

    • Hi Joan–thank you for touching base–it’s pretty amazing how many of us wore the bracelets during the war. I too still think of Lt. Col Young and of his girls and now grandchildren. I can’t ever imagine being held a prisoner for so long–having lost 7 years of his life and the lives of his children—you are so right—a hero to be sure—
      Again, thank you for stopping in and for your kind words—
      Blessings to you and your family—Julie

  13. Cindy says:

    I too wore Lt Col young’s bracelet all through Junior High. I would love to find his family also to thank them and see if they would like to have the bracelet. The women and men who serve our country are true heroes! Especially at that time in our history when so many were running from duty to their country and the ones who served were looked down on by so many. A shameful time in American history

  14. Denise Purdy says:

    Hi Julie,
    I was watching Men of Honor with my husband on T.V. last night and decided to google Master Chief Carl Brashear. I then googled my father Col. James F. Young which I have done just a few times in the past and found your beautiful blog.
    I read your blog to my Mother the very next morning which happens to be Father’s Day and she as I was tearfully touched and amazed at your beautiful post. I continued reading the comments after and was amazed to see how many others also wore and still have my father’s bracelet.
    I am the youngest daughter my father returned home when I was 8 years old. My sister Carrie who wrote you the letter was 14 and my oldest sister was 20.
    I always felt so lucky and happy that my Daddy came home and now I am so grateful for times spent with him. He was truly special!
    Thank you for your efforts in finding more information and your heartfelt words.
    Denise

    • Oh my gosh Denise—I can’t believe it!!!!!!! When I saw that you had posted a commented I immediately just went running out of the house screaming to my husband who was out working in the yard—I read your comment to him and we both started to cry.
      I am speechless and blown away that you actually found what I wrote…almost 3 years ago now.
      It was shortly after I had first started the blog…something I did when I retired from teaching…
      Wearing your dad’s POW bracelet left a lasting impression on me…obviously as it did for so many others who also wore his bracelet.
      This is one of those posts that I see that folks continue stumbling upon. On any given day I can see where someone around the globe clicked on it—and today it was you.
      Denise, would you like to have the bracelet?
      I always said that if I ever found you or your sisters, I would “return” it to the family….as it would finally be home.
      I did try googling your dad when I was about to write the post. I don’t do Facebook (my personal protest with the obsession over social media…it’s the teacher in me 🙂 ) so googling was really my only resource. That’s where I stumbled on an obituary that filled in some of the gaps, but not much.
      Here’s my e-mail if you’d like to contact me… jcook13@bellsouth.net
      Denise you have made my day and I am so honored that I could remind you of the hero your dad was on this Father’s day—
      I am touched that you were able to share it with your mom—
      with much love—
      Julie

    • Kj says:

      Just started crying when i saw all the comments, god speed

    • Kj says:

      Just started crying when i saw all the comments, god speed via. His grand son

    • Pam says:

      Hi Denise,
      I just left a post down below. I went to Orangebrook with you. I don’t know if you remember me. My name was Pam Peckins. We were in the same grade. I remember so well when your dad came home.

  15. Patsy Tallman says:

    I too, wore a bracelet for Lt. Col. James Young. I am 72 years old and many of my high school classmates fought in the Vietnam War.
    I have recently come across my bracelet after wearing it for many years. I am so happy to know that Lt. Col. Young came home but so sorry to read of his passing.
    Thank you for your post about him. It’s good to know what happened to him

    • Oh Patsy, thank you for your comment—I posted an update to this original post on December 7th as Lt. Col Young’s daughter did actually stumble upon my blog post about her dad—she contacted me this summer and I actually just sent her the bracelet. It’s is amazing how a single bracelet can bring so many of us together.
      Blessings to you Patsy this Christmas season–
      hugs—Julie

  16. Dawn Kinnunen says:

    Hi, would she like another one for some other family member?I’m willing to send mime to her if she would like it.Just send me her email and I will ask her. May the blessings of the season be with those families who have lost family members however their lessons about life fill us with love, and great memories of time spent together.

  17. Marie A. says:

    Hi Julie,
    My mother wore the bracelet with Lt. Col James Young’s name on it. (I was born in ’67) I do not know how long she wore it. I remember seeing it her jewelry box and asking about it. She explained to me what was, what was the significance of it and why she no longer wore it. I think I was too young at the time to appreciate what that meant. I grew to appreciate the meaning. My mom passed away in 2014. I now have that jewelry box and the bracelet. Watching Ken Burn’s documentary on the war prompted me to search for Lt. Col Young’s name and found your blog. Thank you for for this post and your story and thank you to all who told their stories too. On another website (http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=147) I learned that James Young was born in Grosse Point, Michigan, in 1929, lived in England as a boy and witnessed the Battle of Britain first-hand and served in the Berlin Airlift. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force, serving from 1953 to 1984.

    Thank you also for providing a place for us to express gratitude to Lt. Col Young and his family for their service and sacrifice. I too am willing to send the bracelet to his daughter if she would like to have it.

    • Thank you Marie for reaching out—I never realized how many different folks wore this same bracelet and I never imagined, after so many years, how many people would still want to seek information and find the end story of those like Lt Col James Young—as I suspect the same holds true for the countless other bracelets worn for the countless other POWs.
      The bracelet is a link that binds all of us to a different time…a stalk contrast to the pettiness gripping our Nation today, to a time when controversy was still raging but in a bracelet and in a name we all found a common good—to support a man who had chosen to sacrifice everything for us, the people he would never know or meet….

      Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your own story to the bracelet and to both a man and his family who each gave so very much to us and this country of ours!!
      Blessings!

  18. Sue M. says:

    Julie,

    I too had a bracelet with Lt. Col. Young’s name on it and wore it until he came home. After watching the new Ken Burns’ PBS special on the Vietnam War, I got my bracelet out and googled Lt Col. Young and found your blog. I was saddened to find that he had passed away but was glad at least the family knew of people that honored him by wearing the bracelet. Thanks.

    Sue M.

    • the connection from and the staying power of one small metal bracelet worn when most were quite young is absolutely amazing—thank you for reaching out and joining “the extended” family of Lt Col. James Young, Vietnam veteran and POW

  19. Barbara Anne says:

    Julie,
    I too worn this bracelet, and just discovered that perhaps I could return it to his family. Your blog has made an amazing connection. If you think the family might like to have another one, I would love to send it on. Perhaps I could contact you via e-mail to obtain their address.

  20. Bill Lehman says:

    Cookie, (Also my cousin’s nick name). I too had Lt Col Young’s bracelet and never took it off.It was such a part of me for many years.
    My father also served in Vietnam and was MIA for a short period of time. My biggest fear as a 10 year old was that a bracelet with his name on it would soon come out. Thankfully, he was rescued and returned home.Such an odd yet special time for us as a society and the youth of the time.

    • Thank you Bill so much for your comment—it is amazing to me how many people have been connected by this one single bracelet—well many bracelets but for this one particular man.
      I am heartened knowing that when often times we feel ourselves so all alone, especially during a crisis or trial—there are most often, unbeknownst to us, a multitude of those who care as they pray us on with there thoughts and concern—again, thank you Bill for reaching out!

    • SLIMJIM says:

      Bill thank you for sharing that…I”m glad your dad was rescued and returned home

  21. SLIMJIM says:

    Julie reading this post and the comments moved me with tears. I can’t believe how many people wore his bracelet and also how his daughter found this! As a son of a Vietnam War refuge and an American born Citizen I am so grateful for men like Lt. Col James Young and their family members. This was a very moving reading experience…

  22. Pam says:

    I went to Orangebrook Elementary School in Hollywood, Florida with Denise Young, Lt Col James Young’s daughter. The whole school wore his bracelet. We were in second grade when Lt Col Young returned home. We had a parade for him at school and we all gave the family our bracelets. Even though I was young, I knew what a big deal it all was. They moved soon after he returned home.

    • Hi Pam!! Thank you sharing your story of connection. I am so thankful that you stumbled upon my post. What an amazing piece of your childhood you have to remember and cherish while sharing it with the rest of us.
      It was a dark time, yet a joyous time–a time that we could all share in, as friends and neighbors…sharing in both the hardships and joy of the families we lived right next to.

      I never thought about the girls classmates at the time and of how they, that being you and the others, were equally effected.

      Thank you again Pam for sharing your part of the story!

      Merry Christmas

  23. Gaye Roth says:

    I was going through a box of my mother’s things recently (she passed away a few years ago at the age of 96) and found a bracelet with the name of Lt. Col. James Young 7-6-66. Obviously this was treasured by my mother fur many years. So happy to learn he returned home to his family but saddened to learn of his passing.

    • Oh wow Gaye— mine had been tucked away as well but after writing the post and finding his youngest daughter, I sent it to her. As much as I bemoan the internet, these small connections that transcend both space and time lift my heart!!

  24. Dawn Brockman says:

    I too have a bracelet for Lt Col James young. I was going through some old jewelry and found his bracelet. It is the same as the one in the picture. I am so happy to learn that he returned home to his family. I appreciate all the men and women who have fought for the freedoms I now have

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