Family Tree
Final Threads of Fate

Final Threads of Fate


In the wake of the Vietnam War, a quiet movement began, sweeping across American high schools. The POW/MIA bracelets, slender circles of metal, were worn not as mere ornaments, but as symbols of solidarity and remembrance. And in the midst of this, a mother working at the Air Force Academy and her young daughter found themselves bound to the stories of two such soldiers.

The mother wore a bracelet inscribed with the name of RalphThomas Browning, who had gone missing on July 8, 1966. The daughter, however, carried a name that would hold a deeper, more poignant connection: James W. Widdis Jr. He had disappeared on March 23, 1969, a date that would some day haunt her, as it was just two days after her 12th birthday.

Both mother and daughter wore their bracelets with a mix of pride, hope, and a quiet longing. They often found themselves deep in thought, wondering about the fate of these soldiers. While the mother received joyous news of Browning's release from the "Hanoi Hilton" in 1973, the daughter's quest for answers about Widdis's fate continued. Years flowed by, and the daughter's journey into adulthood saw the bracelet of James W. Widdis Jr. tucked safely into a jewelry box, but never far from her thoughts.

The passing of her mother in 1991 brought another bracelet into her care - that of Browning, a stark reminder of their shared hope. With the dawn of the digital age, she finally found the closure she had been searching for. The discovery was bittersweet: James W. Widdis Jr. had perished on the very day he went missing, just two days after her 12th birthday.

Drawn to pay her respects, she ventured to his final resting place at the Air Force Academy Cemetery, a bracelet adorning her wrist. A silent tribute, it signified decades of hope, longing, and finally, understanding. Their intertwined journey, one of a mother and daughter connected by bracelets and the tales they held, stands as a testament to the silent sacrifices made during wartime and the enduring bonds that they foster.

In a newspaper article from March 18, 1973 in the Colorado Springs, Gazette and from the "Associated Press" titled:

Poetry Was Written by POW’s in N. Viet Camps.
"Their bodies were imprisoned, but their minds sought freedom. They sought it through verse, the poet POWs of the Hanoi Hilton.”

Stacey Wallace Rehbein