Tag Archives: Vietnam War

It Started With a Bracelet Bearing His Name

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I was recently notified through a member of his family that Colonel Louis F. Makowski passed on September 8. I was deeply saddened to hear this, even though I had never met the man.

Who was Colonel Makowski? He was an air force navigator who served our country during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down, and he was taken as a Prisoner of War on October 6, 1966, spending 2,342 days in captivity then released on March 4, 1973. As an adolescent, I bought a metal POW bracelet inscribed with his name. I wore it every day in support of him and prayed for his safe return. I was deeply opposed to the Vietnam War, watching the horrors unfold on the news along with the accounts of so many young men killed in action. I was afraid my brother would be called up in the draft. It seemed like a death sentence to these young boys, really, who were shipped off to fight such an atrocious war. It was a time of unrest, turmoil, and deep divide in our country. Considering present day, we really haven’t come very far as a country where peace and unity are concerned.

After I wrote about this on my blog and in a local newspaper, I did some investigation and was able to contact Colonel Makowski. He was now retired and enjoying life with his wife and family. We wrote and emailed back and forth a few times, and I was able to express my thanks as an American citizen for his bravery and his service. I was so thrilled to have made that connection with the unknown soldier whose inscription I wore on a bracelet on my wrist for so many years. I received emails from others across the country who also wore his bracelet and who were happy to hear of his whereabouts. I can’t help to think that in his captivity and isolation in the Vietnam prison camp, he really had no idea of the many people who were supporting and praying for his safe return. He was never alone.

I lost touch with Colonel Makowski after that, although every now and again he crossed my mind. Last week I was emotionally touched that two of his family members contacted me to first say he was battling Covid and then he had succumbed to the virus. It was maddening to think that after all he went through in his life and all that he had survived, that in the end, he would suffer with this horrible virus that would take him. He was 90 years old.

I pray for his family in their sorrow and for all the families who have lost loved ones in military service and Covid. There just doesn’t seem enough prayers in the world you could say to honor these heroes.

In closing I would like to leave you with words that Colonel Makowski expressed to me in our last contact. He said, among other things, that he still had high hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God-given American values. The lesson he has taught me through this experience with him is no matter what your circumstances and how hard and challenging life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful. You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.

Obituary of Colonel Louis Frank Makowski:

https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/pensacola-fl/louis-makowski-10345080

If only…

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In my junior year of high school, way back in the 70’s, a fight broke out between a group of white and a group of black students.  It happened outside of the school during a recess period.  I heard it got violent, the police were called, and I don’t remember many other details except that I was in class and the school was put on lockdown. I do remember we were all frightened because we were not exactly sure of what was happening or why. The students involved ran, and I don’t know if any were caught or detained. The principal would not let anyone out of the building. The buses would not run that day, and you were not allowed to walk home. The administration started calling parents to pick their child up as they were not going to be allowed to leave without a parent or guardian accompanying them. My mom didn’t drive, so she had to find a neighbor who did, and that neighbor came and picked me up with my mom.

Since I had just transferred from a strict Catholic high school, I was overwhelmed by all of this. I was quiet and reserved, and this was mind-boggling. We were all apprehensive after that never knowing the real story vs. the rumors or whether it would happen again. The situation was never addressed or clarified in any way. No announcement; no letter home. But eventually life went on and besides a few minor skirmishes, nothing major happened for the rest of the year.

That time period, in general, was one of great unrest in the country at large, and it was not unusual for schools to have random clashes between the races. It was not unusual to have kids smoking pot out in the courtyard during recess either. Civil unrest was at full tilt in the world with protesting galore. The Vietnam War was stealing our youth with senseless deaths. Peacemakers John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.  Four students at Kent State University were killed and nine others injured during a protest against the Vietnam War by the National Guard who open fired into the crowd. It was one of the greatest tragedies in our history.  I remember a few years later stopping at Kent State University while driving across the country wanting to see the place where this had happened. It was eerily quiet and felt like sacred ground. This was the place where four young college kids lost their lives at the hands of the National Guard because they dared to march for what they believed in, which, ironically, was peace. There was now only a plaque commemorating that fatal day. Their bravery in standing up for what they believed was heroic. I was just rambling around trying to figure out what to do with my life during this hostile era. I really hoped for the end of the Vietnam War and wanted peace. I really wanted racial harmony and the end of brutality. But I did not proactively take a stand or try to do anything to help make it happened. If only I had tried…

The world is still a mess. Today we have people protesting the brutal murder by police of George Floyd and the many others victimized by police brutality. We also have a horrendous pandemic with US deaths by Covid-19 surpassing a total of 110,000 today. Protesters are literally risking their lives to make a stand against horrific racial brutality. There is no peace. Our nation is crying out for change. Change that is so desperately needed. And yet we have the so-called leader of our country hiding in a bunker below the White House ranting incoherently through social media.  A so-called leader who commissioned the national guard to push peaceful protesters back with tear gas and rubber bullets to make way for his photo opt in front of a church holding a Bible. Not his Bible, by the way. “A bible” he clarified when asked. Did he say a prayer? No. Did he offer words of encouragement to a hurting people. No. If only…

If only…systemic change was proactively initiated back in the 70’s or 60’s or 50’s or in 1619 when slavery in the United States began. If only…I had been more proactive at a younger age in recognizing the need for and advocating for change. If only… I, as an individual had chosen another path in life to work towards a better world. If only…

I pray that reform will be initiated now for the good because we just cannot go on with the way history has played out in this country up until now. I still look to the future with hope that we as a united people will do better to make this country and the world a better place. I know in my heart of hearts that it can happen. I wish I had done more with different and wiser life choices to help to bring it about. I wish I had paid more attention to the details. But I ask you through my failures to find out the facts of what is happening and why and how you can be a part of making it materialize. And I will try to find a way in this late stage of my life to make a difference as well. I know I can immediately start by voting.

Please remember this moment in time and how our leadership is failing us and vote. This is the one most important thing we can all do right now for the common good.

My prayer is that God will bless America and help us to do better as a nation united together in understanding, love, kindness, caring and harmony. No more “If onlys…”

 

BE STRONG, BE BRAVE, BE HOPEFUL

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Back in May I wrote a blog entitled, “Memorial Day Remembrance” about a POW bracelet I used to wear during the Vietnam War in support of an American prisoner of war, Lt. Col. Louis F. Makowski. I repeated the story in my column in the Forked River Gazette for the 4th of July issue as an “Independence Day Remembrance.” Wearing the POW bracelet in his honor became a symbol of strength, bravery and hope for me, and when I had the privilege of watching Lt. Col. Makowski arrive home on TV, my heart leapt with pride and thanks to God for bringing him safely home.

It’s been almost 40 years since his release from that prison camp in Vietnam, where he was incarcerated for 6 ½ years. I’ve often wondered since then what became of him. So after the story was published, I decided to do some detective work and find out. I wrote him a letter and sent him a copy of the essay. I am happy to say I received a response from him just yesterday and wanted to share the good news with you. I am pleased to report he is doing well. Now retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Colonel, he lives a quiet life with his wife of 58 years, has four children and four grandchildren.

Among other things, Colonel Makowski wrote that he has hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God given American values. My heart was humbled by his very kind words to me, and I thanked this courageous and wonderful man for taking the time to respond. The lesson he has taught me through this experience is no matter what your circumstances are and how hard life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful.  You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.

God bless you, Colonel Louis F. Makowski, and God bless America!