Have you ever had one of those moments, those ‘Toys In The Attic’ moments you hear about where somebody finds something really Incredible or valuable, like lost baseball cards, a forgotten valuable painting or heirloom that they never knew they had? Well last night Dylan and I found my gem that I never knew I had.
Last night Dylan and I were looking through the dresser in my bedroom and ran across my old childhood piggy bank. Ah, ‘Elephant’ bank if you really look at it.
I have had this since I can remember. I kept my fancy coins that were given to me back in the day. And so Dylan takes it and opens it up and starts exploring my treasures. Eventually she ran across a broken stainless steel bracelet with a person’s name on it. It was a POW bracelet that I wore as a child during the Vietnam War.
I wore this $2.00 bracelet everyday for about a year. I didn’t know who the POW was on the bracelet but I did wonder what happened to him? Was he Army, Air Force, Marine, Navy? Was he a prisoner? Was he missing? Was he still alive?
So I thought about him, prayed as a 10-year-old knows how to pray, and really always hoped he was alive and doing OK. He was in my thoughts and prayers. But really, so were Little League, school and trips to the beach.
Then the war ended and I never heard his name. I lived in a small town in PA and I watched and I listened but I never heard a word about Mr. Gruters.
Where was that darned Internet when you need it!
And so the war ended and I reluctantly took the bracelet off and put it in my piggy bank, not knowing what else to do.
This POW bracelet stayed in my bank after I left home in my early 20s along with all my coins; silver dollars, Bi-Centennial quarters and dollars and the like. It stayed in that bank as I moved up and down the east coast, through all the dozens of apartments and now houses I moved into as I made my way through life. I couldn’t understand the significance of the bracelet but I felt it represented a ‘Life’ of someone who fought hard for my country. .
Not familiar with the POW Bracelets?
Here is what my Wiki says about them: ” a nickel-plated or copper commemorative bracelet engraved with the name, rank, and loss date of an American serviceman captured or missing during the Vietnam War.
The bracelets were first created in May 1970  with the intention that American POWs in Vietnam not be forgotten. The bracelets sold for $2.50 or $3.00. Those who wore the bracelets vowed to leave them on until the soldier named on the bracelet, or their remains, were returned to America.” And that’s what I did
So with Dylan sitting by my side I Googled the name on the bracelet, after all these years, to see if I could ever find the outcome to this mysterious GI honored on my bracelet. To my surprise the name I was typing, Capt. Guy Gruters, came up in the search before I was even done typing it.
I thought who is this man?
Who was this man?
Is he famous somehow?
You know what? There are lots of pages on the Internet about this great man. This man, whose bracelet I wore, now does motivational speeches based on his captivity and surviving it. His speeches are based around:
Conversion / Finding God in a Prison Camp
Here is a link to my Mr. Gruters and 2 other POW’s appearing on an ABC Memorial Day Tribute to POW’s of the Vietnam War.
There are many pages about him, too numerous to list here. Each one is filled with incredible stories depicting the courage of this man on my bracelet.
I decided to read his Wikipedia page first. To my delight and astonishment I found he was not only alive but thriving!
Here is a brief bio about the name of the man I wore on my bracelet from Wilki:
“Guy Gruters was raised in New Jersey where he spent his childhood trapping muskrat, camping, hunting and Scouting (Eagle Scout Rank awarded).
He won acceptance to the United States Air Force Academy and graduated with a BS in Engineering Science (Summa Cum Laude, ranked 7th in his graduating class overall, #1 in Engineering Science.) He then went on to Purdue University and completed a Master’s degree in Astronautical Engineering in less than one year.
After Undergraduate Pilot Training and fighter gunnery school, he volunteered for Vietnam and served six years, more than five years of which was as a POW. During his flight operations as a Forward Air Controller in the first 10 months, Guy flew more than 400 combat missions, first for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
As a copilot of the two-seat F-100F, Gruters was shot down twice. The first shoot down required a parachute water landing less than one mile offshore near the North Vietnamese city of Dong Hoi while under fire from the enemy’s coastal guns in November 1967. North Vietnamese boats were prevented from intercepting the downed pilots by strafing U.S. F-4 fighter-bombers, First Lieutenant Gruters and Captain Charles Neel were rescued by two USAF HH-3E Sea King helicopter crews based 60 miles away while under heavy fire.
Gruters was shot down for the second time on December 20, 1967. He and fellow pilot, Colonel Robert R. Craner were captured and imprisoned in the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) among other camps. Upon their initial incarceration, Gruters and Craner cared for Lance Sijan before Sijan succumbed to wounds and torture in January 1968. (which is an incredible story itself)
Gruters spent 5 years and 3 months, over 1900 days, as a prisoner of war before his release in 1973.
Guy Gruters’ decorations include more than thirty combat awards, with two Silver Stars, two DFCs, two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the POW Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, 20 Air Medals and other medals.
Guy Gruters’ testimony was instrumental in Lance Sijan receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1976. Guy Gruters’ story was described in the book, “Bury Us Upside Down,”
I had no idea
As a small boy, I had no idea that I was wearing the bracelet of an American Hero and a phenomenal man. Can you imagine, 5 years as a Prisoner Of War? What were you doing 5 years ago? What have you done since? I can’t begin to appreciate the hardships and torture this courageous man had to live with for those five+ years.
Five + years in captivity, where people are being tutored daily? Guy, in his words says, “Facing death was easy. It was facing torture that was the the hardest.”
So how is your day going so far?
Let me take you back to a day in March 1973 when I could have, and should have, been able to take off my POW bracelet. Watch as Guy is greeted by his ‘little’ brother, who Guy claims was, “the kid I beat up all my life and now (grown and) stronger than I am” (after 5 years of incarcerations) in a very special reunion with his family:
So this post comes back to a little boy in a small town wearing the bracelet of a very big man that has been rediscovered.
And this little boy is humbled.
This man has more courage than this boy can possibly fathom.
What a remarkable treasure, the story, the meaning, the role model,the man thought lost for so long Dylan and I found in my old piggy bank.
What a joy to be able to finally put a face and a life with the name on my little POW bracelet.
What a huge inspiration of courage and strength and faith held in a teeny-tiny bracelet.
Mr. Guy Gruters is the real deal. An American Hero. An American Treasure.
I feel honored to get a glimpse of this great man’s life through my childhood POW bracelet.
So I need some advice please. What would you do with this bracelet?
And if you say give it back to Mr. Gruters, under what premise of doing so after almost 50 years?
What kind of Thank You is great enough for Mr. Gruters; and all the servicemen and women and POW’s out there?
Interested in more real life stories about the adverse life of a POW and the courage of a hero? Check out the many stories captured in Guy’s website.
“Courage is fear after you have said your prayers” Capt. Guy Gruters