Not too many entries ago, I made mention of the stainless steel bracelets we wore in the early 70’s that had the names of missing soldiers and prisoners of war written on them. In that same entry I wondered what had become of Victor Apodaca, the soldier whose name was engraved on my own bracelet that had been given to me by my big sister.
Since that time, I did a bit of research and was able to contact one of his sisters, who wrote me back and furnished me with a mailing address of another sister who is not in good health. She promised to write me back and I am hoping to send her my condolences for her many years of suffering. This is the price that so many of our veterans have paid with their own lives and the lives of their families.
Here is a bit of her letter to me:
We have not given up on the strong possibility that there are LIVE POWS STILL HELD IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OTHER FOREIGN COUNTRIES. There is a great deal of information on the internet about Victor. The Vietnam Veterans of America Memorial Foundation web site has photos and information that I posted for all to read. Go to the web site, enter his name, then scroll down the left column to the words “To Victor With Love.” Enter that link.
So of course I did, and on this Veteran’s Day, I wanted to share my discovery.
Home of Record: Englewood, CO
Date of birth: 05/31/1937
Service: United States Air Force
Grade at loss: O3
Note: Promoted while in MIA status
ID No: 521408291
MOS: 1111F: Pilot
Length Service: **
Unit: 389TH TAC FTR SQDN, 366TH TAC FTR WING, 7TH AF
Start Tour: 01/08/1967
Incident Date: 06/08/1967
Casualty Date: 11/15/1973
Age at Loss: 36 (based on date declared dead)
Location: Province not reported, North Vietnam
Remains: 1973 status: Body Not Recovered. Found later.
Repatriated: 04/27/1989 (Returned to US soil)
Casualty Type: Hostile, died while missing
Casualty Reason: Fixed Wing – Pilot
Casualty Detail: Air loss or crash over land
I think about the colorful, rubbery bracelets that are now in vogue for showing ones causes, and remember how the edge of those steel bracelets felt on the skin of ones wrist, hard and ungiving, so much like the loss of war- for war is always about loss, whether it is won or lost.
What Victor’s family was given by the U.S. government was a box containing three bones. There is some dispute over whether they are all human bones, and whether or not they are his. But they have been buried with military honors and he has been pronounced dead. He is very much alive in the memory of our country, and in his sisters’ minds, he is still very much alive and still in prison.
So even after locating so much information about Victor, it turns out that I do not know for certain what finally became of him; and so the thought of Victor and the Viet Nam war will, for me at least, continue to wear the cold, hard edge of a stainless steel memory.