The Memento
Mysterious Ways|Apr/May 2020
I stepped back from the wall to admire my new shadow box. I’d just had it framed.
Lynn Walker Gendusa

The piece fit perfectly into an empty space on my dining room wall. Inside the box was a doll my soldier brother John had sent me in Georgia from Vietnam back in 1966. Every time I moved, the doll moved with me, but I never seemed to find the right place to put her. She usually wound up tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Now, 45 years after receiving her, I’d finally found a great way to display her.

I had kept that doll with me for so long as a reminder of my gratitude that John was able to return home safe—and a memorial to those who weren’t. You see, the shadow box also contained a second memento of Vietnam. A metal bracelet, wrapped around the doll’s waist, was engraved with the name of a soldier and the date he went missing in action: Robert Dyczkowski, April 24, 1966.

Bracelets like these were popular during the war. They were part of a national program. For a small donation, you received the name of a soldier who was either being held prisoner or missing in action. The names were selected and sent at random. When the soldier came home or his death was confirmed, you received a notice. Only then were you supposed to take it off.

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