KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A simple Google search helped a Wisconsin woman meet the POW whose bracelet she received in the 1970s.
In support of prisoners of war, POWs and those missing in action, bracelets were created around 1970 with the intention to support those men. The American POWs became critical figures in the negotiations that led to the end of the Vietnam War in 1973.
Monica Livingston received Bill Robinson’s bracelet when she was about 13 years old. She went searching to find out more about him and found WATE’s Veterans Voices story focusing on the former POW captain. She lived in the mid-west then when Robinson returned home to North Carolina. She knew a lot about him and WATE helped her meet him.
“I’m so happy to meet you,” Livingston said to Robinson in a FaceTime call.
From her home outside of Madison, Wis., Livingston told Robinson she received his POW bracelet in 1972 when she was in Junior High School.
On Sept. 20, 1965, on a rescue mission, aboard a helicopter over North Vietnam, Airman First Class Robinson was taken prisoner and held for nearly eight years in Hanoi. He and others were released 50 years ago this month.
“I do want to tell you how much I appreciate what you have done for our country and what everyone, all the POWs and all the people who are gone, did for our country,” Livingston said. “I just want to thank you now and know that a lot of people appreciate you and what you have done.”
Robinson answered her, “I thank you so much. The important thing, I remind people, I got the welcome home that belonged to so many. I represented an end of something that America wanted over.”
The idea of POW bracelets originated from a student group to honor and remember American POWs in Vietnam.
“I wore it for a long time through high school. Then we didn’t have Google, I never really knew you had returned by then. I never knew you had returned,” Livingston said.
In Robinson’s home is a book called “The Longest Rescue” by Glenn Robins, which tells Robinson’s story using a variety of sources.
“I call it my Forrest Gump book, but it’s a story about Vietnam and put me in the middle of it,” Robinson said.
“I have it right here,” Livingston said. “I’ve read it and had to read it more than once because it is so detailed about what went on and the names of the people you were with. It’s a very good book.”
“Well that’s what happens when you get a history teacher to write your book,” Robinson said.
Livingston told Robinson she will use his bracelet as a learning experience for her grandchildren and that she was so glad to find him and talk.
“I appreciate your service. I appreciate growing up in a country that values freedom and democracy. I’m so glad that you are part of us and part of this country,” Livingston said.
“Thank you so much. It’s always an honor to meet with patriots who understand what America is about,” Robinson said.
About five million POW/MIA bracelets were produced in the early 70s. They were made of nickel or copper, and engraved with the name, rank and loss date of every American serviceman captured or missing during the Vietnam War.
Today the National League of Families is the only national organization comprised solely of the close relatives of U.S. servicemen and civilians still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Robinson says whenever he speaks today, he reminds people to never forget 1,500 still missing in action and the thousands of people who still wear those MIA bracelets.