Memorial Day

Woman who wore POW/MIA bracelet for nearly 40 years shares story during suburban Memorial Day ceremony

Kathy Strong vowed to wear a bracelet in honor of Green Beret James Moreland until his remains were brought home

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For nearly four decades, Kathy Strong wore a silver bracelet, honoring a man she'd never met.

"It all started back on Christmas Day 1972, when I was a young girl," Strong said. "I received a POW/MIA bracelet in my Christmas stocking from Santa."

Speaking during the 105th Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony in Arlington Heights, Strong told veterans, their families and the community about why she was compelled to ensure Sergeant First Class James Moreland was never forgotten.

"I slipped the bracelet on my left wrist with the simple promise that I would wear it until he came home from Vietnam. Of course I had no idea it would take over 38 years to fulfill that promise," Strong said.

James Moreland, a Green Beret serving in South Vietnam, went missing on Feb. 7, 1968, when his camp came under attack. He was only 22.

He would spend 43 years listed as MIA.

According to the US Vietnam War Commemoration, the year of Moreland's death was the deadliest for US troops.

In 1978, the Army declared him dead. It was not until May 2011, after DNA tests determined that his remains had been found, that Moreland was repatriated, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

"I wore James Moreland’s bracelets for 38 years until he came home," said Strong, who buried the bracelet with him in 2011 at his funeral in his home state of Alabama.

Through local reporting, Strong was connected to Moreland's siblings. It was his sister, Linda, who ultimately informed Strong his body had been found.

"Now, I’m on a mission to honor him in all 50 states. Today is my 38th state, Illinois," said Strong.

Her next stop is Lincoln, Nebraska in June, followed by Ennis, Montana in July.

Strong says she chose Arlington Heights because of the eternal flame bronze sculpture in Memorial Park. She also said she appreciates the large turnout for the annual parade and ceremony.

"It's just great to know that people care."

In every state, Strong places a memorial brick in Moreland's honor.

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