The POW/MIA Bracelet is a nickel-plated or copper bracelet engraved with the rank, name and date the soldier was missing in action or became a prisoner of war.

The one I picked out is nickel-plated and engraved with the name Sgt. Kenneth Lancaster 1-3-69 and it was purchased in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan for $2.50 in 1970. I wear it from Memorial Day to Veterans' Day.

Carol Bates Brown was the National Chairman of the POW/MIA Bracelet Campaign for VIVA (Voices In Vital America), the Los Angeles based student organization that produced and distributed the bracelets during the Vietnam War. Entertainers Bob Hope and Martha Raye served with her as honorary co-chairmen. The idea for the bracelets was started by a fellow college student, Kay Hunter, and her, as a way to remember American prisoners of war suffering in captivity in Southeast Asia. They were looking for ways college students could become involved in positive programs to support US soldiers without becoming embroiled in the controversy of the war itself.

In late 1969 television personality Bob Dornan (who several years later was elected to the US Congress) ,wore a bracelet he had obtained in Vietnam from hill tribesmen, which he said always reminded him of the suffering the war had brought to so many.

Ten sample bracelets were made carrying only name, rank and date of loss. Armed with the sample bracelets, they set out to find someone who would donate money to make bracelets for distribution to college students. It had not yet occurred to them that adults would want to wear the things, as the nickel-plated bracelets weren't very attractive. Several approaches to Ross Perot were rebuffed, to include a proposal that he loan them $10,000 at 10% interest. Including a visit to Howard Hughes' senior aides in Las Vegas, who were sympathetic but not willing to help fund the project.

Although the initial bracelets were going to cost about 75 cents to make, they were unsure about how much they should ask people to donate to receive a bracelet. In 1970, a student admission to the local movie theater was $2.50. It was decided this seemed like a fair price to ask from a student for one of the nickel-plated bracelets. Copper ones were made for adults who believed they helped their "tennis elbow." The cost for the copper bracelets was $3.00


POW-MIA Bracelets: Veterans' Day, November 11, 1970, officially kicked off the bracelet program . Public response quickly grew and eventually got to the point of receiving over 12,000 requests a day. In all,VIVA distributed nearly five million bracelets.

See Sgt. Kenneth Lancaster