WASHINGTON — Ann McKinnon’s tears were happy ones when she heard the news from volunteer park ranger Sharon Bannister.
The Connecticut woman was weeping because she learned the man, whose name is engraved on her bracelet, was no longer missing in action. Gordon Paige, who was presumed missing in action (MIA) as of July 22, 1972, had survived the Vietnam War.
“He ejected out of his plane. She just told me,” said McKinnon, who was still choked up.
“All these years I never knew what happened to him, but I kept it. Everyone said, ‘(You) really don’t want to know’ and ‘you could Google it’ and I was like, ‘No, I’m going to Washington for the first time since the eighth grade’ … and I just found out he is alive.”
The Watertown, Conn. resident was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall Saturday morning with her friends when she spoke to Bannister. The Reflector happened to see McKinnon and experienced the emotional moment as she learned the good news.
McKinnon shared how she came to own a silver bracelet for nearly 48 years with Paige’s name and MIA date on it. She said she purchased the bracelet when she was 14 years old, “knowing he was missing in action.”
“I was in the eighth grade and they told me, ‘If you want to support someone in the Vietnam War, we’re selling these bracelets.’ I sent away for it,” said McKinnon, who was attending Wolcott High School in Wolcott, Conn. at the time.
McKinnon kept the bracelet in a drawer. She wore it Saturday when she visited the wall.
“No, I didn’t wear it (all of those years),” she said. “It’s amazing. He’s still living.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Saturday’s installment will feature three generations of the Taggart family — Brad, his father Bill and his daughter Raquel, a St. Paul High School senior — who were on the Huron County Honor Trip. Bill and Brad Taggart are veterans. Also look for a column by Norwalk Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby about his experiences.