An Extraordinary Veteran’s Day Gift

It was just a little more than a year ago when I began my pilgrimage into my yearly deep ponderance about a man I have never met yet who has been a part of my life since.. well, I am not exactly sure.. It must have been around 1972. I was just a young girl, impressionable, with older siblings. My thoughts and ideas formed from what they thought, what they did and what they cared about. It was also the beginnings of having great passion for life and the adventures that come with it. It was conflict! Beach Boys, War, marching in the streets against war and the beginning of the drug-induced hippie movement.

In 1965, my oldest brother, graduated from high school. He left for the Air Force, shortly, thereafter. At this young age, I was much too young to understand. I know I missed him.. and he was gone. His leaving left a huge hole in my heart and in all my being. I have to say I idolized him. He never came back. He would write on occasion, and visit, seldom.

Around 1972, I attended an event, of which I cannot recall. But what did happen, set me on a course for an event 40 years later. There was a group at the event, who had these metal bracelets for sale. Each one, with a name and a date. Each one a POW or MIA.. Each one unaccounted for..It was exciting! I picked a bracelet that had a date, somewhat near when my brother went in. I chose Major James O. Hivner.

  Maj James Hivner 11

I found it interesting that a man would have an “O” for a middle name.  Here is the information they gave me. Major James O.Hivner, POW, went missing on October 5, 1965 and that’s it.  I wore my POW/MIA bracelet proudly. I can recall praying for him, or maybe what seems like today.. a kind of pray~wishing for him to be alive and safe. My POW bracelet took a beating. It finally began to crack. As if it held some magical power, over the life of my POW,  I was desperate to keep it whole. My dad said there was no fixing it. Determined not to let it crack the rest of the way, I tried super glue, metal bonding glue, and last.. tape. Nothing worked and eventually, it cracked into two pieces. Well, would this be the end of the story?  Idealistic, powerless, and sure if I was not wearing it, he would be forgotten, forever..  I wrapped it up in some tissue paper and put it away, in my jewelry box for safe keeping.

  Over the years, there were occasionally lists published in the Major James Hivner 12paper of POW’s and MIA’s who became accounted for. I never saw my POW’s name on any of them.  I would pray for him, think about him.. and wonder who he was and what brought him to the horrific event of becoming a POW.  The years past by, and I would think of Major Hivner, I would pray for him and wonder if he was alive or was he ever accounted for.

With the invention of the Internet, great opportunities to search for him opened up. But, alas,  It grieved me that I could never find his name on any of the lists.  So many were recovered, so many returned home to their families. Mine remained missing.. Every few years, I would do a google search in a desperate attempt to have some closure whether good or bad for “my guy”. My first glimmer came about 5 years ago, when I saw his name on a POW/MIA list. I was so hopeful! Sadly there was no more information.

In 2014, I was sharing my teen adventures with my youngest boy who is now 17. I got my POW/MIA bracelet out and share about the whole POW/MIA experience. He had recently read the story about Zamperini and his testimony.   I seldom share what my life was like when i was a teen.. but this time, sharing about my bracelet, rekindled the burning desire to know.  One afternoon, I sat down in front of the computer and began to search.. i googled everything, i read everything, I researched every link.. I searched and researched for what seemed like days. I had a breakthrough. I found the Pow Network and I clicked all through the site. I click on the POW/MIA which took me to a multitude of resources links. My thoughts were to order a new bracelet. I clicked on a link that just said “Vietnam”. This link took me to a page of Biographies!! Encouraged, excited, full of new hope I clicked..”H”. down down down… and then.. there it was!

Name: James Otis Hivner
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, pilot
Unit: 43rd TFS
Date of Birth: 20 February 1931
Home City of Record: Elizabethtown PA
Date of Loss: 05 October 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213200N 1062100E (XJ397815)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C
Incident # 0161
Missions: 35

 My heart stopped.. and then I wanted to shout for joy.. My Prisoner of War was released.. He was alive! As I continued to read his story, I am amazed at his testimony! A pilot, shot down in October of 1965 but not reported He was captured and held by the North Vietnamese. Major James O. Hivner, now a Lt. Colonel in the USAF was released on February 12, 1973. When I inquired about returning his braclet to the project, I instead received a long letter from My Soldier. I am happy to say that  Colonel James O Hivner, Retired is now my email friend. We are connected by life and circumstances. He is a warm and wonderful Christan man who has great love for his family, friends and his country. Now I thank God for the blessing of his life. never again, wondering, if he “made it”.  I have his journal from during the time of his imprisonment. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry, Silver Star for gallantry and intrepidity, The Legion of Merit medal for meritorious conduct, The Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement, The Distinguished Flying Cross Second Award for extraordinary achievement, Prison of War Medal for his time as a prisoner.  I am blessed to know this man. If you would like to read some of his story.. let me know..

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