EFFINGHAM, Ill. — At a peaceful Vietnam protest in 1971, Anita Renshaw, of Strasburg, was given a silver “missing in action” bracelet with Joseph Smith’s name on it. She’s kept it with her ever since, even though she didn’t know him.
“I just couldn’t let go of it,” said Renshaw, now 68. “I was thinking, ‘Someday, I’ll hear something.'”
It took 46 years for that to happen. News about Smith finally came in July. On the front page of the Effingham Daily News, Renshaw read that the man she had kept in mind for so many years had been found and his remains would be returned to his hometown of Assumption.
“I went, ‘No. No way. That can’t be Joseph Smith,'” she said.
Smith, 25, was lost after his F-100D aircraft plummeted from the sky into Cambodia on April 4, 1971. Because the crash happened near intense enemy activity, a recovery operation wasn’t attempted. In May, his remains had finally been accounted for.
During the Vietnam War, MIA bracelets were distributed to remember lost servicemen. Over the years, Renshaw wore her bracelet or kept it in a glass jewelry case. Even throughout her many moves, the bracelet traveled with her.
“You would’ve thought it’d get lost,” she said.
With Smith no longer missing, Renshaw decided to part with the MIA bracelet. On Aug. 9, she delivered it to the Assumption Historical Society.
“I was kind of depressed and I thought, ‘What is wrong with me?'” she said. “I knew some day I’d have to give it up, but actually doing it is a big difference. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
A second MIA bracelet arrived at the society in August. It was worn by Special Agent Paul J. Russell for 20 years. He, like Renshaw, never met Smith. Russell died June 1, a month before Smith’s remains were returned and buried in Assumption.
At the society’s building, letters, photos, and newspaper articles tell Smith’s story. The two new MIA bracelets will undoubtedly help with that now.
“It’s amazing you still have the bracelet and could find it after all these years,” president Joyce Throneburg told Renshaw. “I really appreciate this. It helps round out our display.”
Source: Effingham Daily News, http://bit.ly/2wR1UYy
Information from: Effingham Daily News, http://www.effinghamdailynews.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the Effingham Daily News.