Earlier this summer, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago store associate Sheila Anderson was processing jewelry donations at the agency’s South Elgin, IL, location when she found a bracelet. Engraved with a name, military rank, branch of service, a date, and a country, the bracelet struck Anderson as more than a regular ID bracelet.
“Because I grew up in the Vietnam War era, I thought it might be a POW/MIA bracelet,” said Anderson.
Anderson brought the bracelet to the attention of her manager, Al Ferguson, who discovered through research that she was correct in her assumption about the jewelry’s origin. The bracelets were sold in the early 1970s by Voices in Vital America (VIVA), a Los Angeles-based student organization hoping to raise awareness of imprisoned and missing servicemen. They were a symbol of hope – bands of engraved metal that became a bandage for a divided nation.
A Soldier’s History
Ferguson used the Internet to find information about the soldier named on the bracelet, Charles Douglas King, and his story of how he went missing in action in Laos during the Vietnam War in 1968. King, an airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, was attacked by enemy fire while attempting a volunteer mission to rescue a downed pilot on Christmas Day, 1968.
“Of all days to have that happen to a family. Here it was Christmas and he was still out serving his country and trying to rescue another soldier,” remarked Ferguson.
Following the information on websites, Ferguson was able to track down the soldier’s sister, Sherry King, who lives in Iowa, and reunite her with the bracelet.
“I was ecstatic to locate her, but hoping that it wouldn’t bring up a lot of bad memories,” he noted. “However, in reading some of her interviews with her local Iowa paper regarding MIAs, I thought she would be happy to see a stranger honoring his memory.”
In a letter to Goodwill, Sherry expressed her gratitude to the organization. In her reply, she wrote:
Thank you for emailing me. Charles is my brother. Yes, I would like the bracelet. What is even more amazing is that I also work for Goodwill, in Muscatine, IA. We need to talk more about this. Maybe there is story here about all Goodwill does, and the great people they hire. I can only thank you for not throwing it away.
South Elgin employee Sheila Anderson said she is glad the bracelet could be returned to the soldier’s sister, remarking, “It is really amazing that we found her and that we are Goodwill colleagues. Life is full of surprises!”
Read more about Charles Douglas King’s story.