Turn back the clock 50 years to 1970 and you would find a craze for Missing in Action/Prisoner of War bracelets.
Marcia Bailor wanted to honor these American soldiers who went missing or were taken prisoner and decided to purchase a MIA/POW bracelet.
Her husband was serving in the National Guard and she knew this would be a great way to inform others and honor American troops.
“We had friends that had husbands in Vietnam and when I saw the advertisement I thought, I need to wear a bracelet in honor of one until they see where he is, to find him,” Bailor said.
She wore her bracelet for years, the name Morgan Donahue wrapped around her wrist.
Recently, Bailor, now a resident of Lee County, decided to do some research into Donahue’s history. The internet was before her, and surely, somewhere, was information about this veteran.
“Sure enough, there is a huge, ton of articles on this man,” Bailor said. “… And they never found him, but I read all the articles. For the first time, I saw who he was then, in his pictures there. And it was incredible to just know that for all those years, that I just did not know who that man was but all of a sudden, he came out on the computer.”
Morgan J. Donahue was born in 1944 in Alexandria, Virginia, before going on to serve in the Air Force. He went missing in December 1968 and has not been found to date, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website.
First Lieutenant Donahue was serving in the 606th Special Operations Squadron in Thailand, according to the POW Network. Information from the Network on Donahue was compiled from U.S. Government agency sources, POW/MIA families, published sources and interviews, the site said.
“On December 13, 1968, the crew of a C123K was dispatched from Nakhon Phanom Airfield located in northern Thailand near the border of Laos on an operational mission over Laos,” the network said. “The C123 was assigned night patrol missions along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Flying low at 2000 to 3000 feet, the job of the seven-man crew was to spot enemy truck convoys on the trail and to light up the trails for accompanying B57 bombers, which were flying overhead.”
The crew’s C123 was hit by a B57 from above, and according to the network, the pilot lost consciousness.
“Donahue’s station was in the underbelly of the plane where, lying on his stomach, he directed an infrared detection device through an open hatch,” the network said. “The pilot parachuted out, landed in a treetop where he remained until rescued at dawn. On the way down, he saw another chute below him, but, because of the dark, was unable to determine who the crew member was.”
Donahue has been promoted to the rank of Major since he acquired MIA status.
Bailor thought that Donahue’s family might want the bracelet, and she wondered if there would be a way to reach out to them.
She found the POW/MIA family website (www.powmiafamilies.org) and reached out to a random board member on the site. Mark Stephensen answered.
“I told him who I was and where I got his name and I told him the name on the bracelet and he said, ‘You are not going to believe this.’ He said, ‘Why’d you pick my name?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. Could it have been God? Somebody pointed that right out to me.’ He said, ‘I knew his brother … I know his family.’ And we talked all about it.”
Stephensen, who serves as the vice chairman, said it is a small community; only 2,500 were documented MIA/POW after the war.
“It was wonderful because all those years I wore that bracelet, knew that name but never knew one thing about this person,” Bailor said.
Bailor asked Stephensen if Donahue’s family is still around and would potentially want this bracelet.
“What [Stephensen] said was that he would get me in touch with his brother and either I could send him that or I could put it in a museum here with a story,” Bailor said.
Bracelets are still sold at the pow-miafamilies.org website.
“These men want to save us, to protect us and that’s why they were there,” Bailor said. “… He was over there fighting for our freedom and that makes every veteran so special.”
She is considering donating the bracelet to a local museum since Stephenson has not had any luck contacting Donahue’s family. The MIA soldier’s brother and father have both passed away.
Stephensen told her, however, that if she donates the bracelet she should include Donahue’s story because a piece of metal on its own means nothing, he said.
“I’ve heard service members say, ‘To die in combat is not the worst thing. To die in combat and be forgotten is the worst thing,’” Stephensen said