At Vietnam Memorial, An Unlikely Bond Began
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The soldier's motto is leave no man behind. And one very visible symbol of that promise is the bracelet worn by many Americans to honor a prisoner of war or a service member missing in action. One bracelet created a rare bond between two people. Both had lost a close family member in service overseas. On this Memorial Day, here's Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR.
CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: Ann Remington remembers when her brother got his bracelet. It was 2003. She was visiting him in Washington, D.C. They'd gone to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Her brother, Scott Saboe, was about to leave for a tour in Iraq. But before he left, he wanted to get one of those plain, metal bands bearing the name of a service member who never returned home. Ann says her brother didn't want just any name.
ANN REMINGTON: He wanted somebody much like himself. He wanted somebody with South Dakota roots. And then he wanted a pilot.
NICKISCH: Scott picked out a stainless steel band engraved with the name of David Soyland. Like him, an army helicopter pilot, who went missing in action in Vietnam, shot down in 1971. Less than a year after he got that bracelet, Scott Saboe's helicopter went down, too, in Iraq. He was killed in the crash - three days after his 33rd birthday. After the funeral, Ann started going through her brother's things.
REMINGTON: Well, and I knew about this bracelet. I'm, like, I'm not letting this get lost in the shuffle. This is coming with me.
NICKISCH: Fast forward two years. Ann's working as a nurse at a retirement home in South Dakota, a veterans' home. And she was doing paperwork on a new resident.
REMINGTON: We always ask them about their family, and if they're close. And he said his oldest son was missing in action in Vietnam, and...
NICKISCH: The name of this elderly Army veteran? Ted Soyland. It didn't register until she went home.
REMINGTON: Wait, that bracelet. God, I wonder? No, it couldn't be. And when I pulled it out I was like...
(SOUNDBITE OF GASP)
REMINGTON: And I had to draw Ted's blood for something. And I'm like: Was your son David? And Ted's like, what? I'm, like, well, here. And I showed him. I'm, like, is this your son? And he's, like, where did you get this?
TED SOYLAND: I was kind of surprised, very surprised.
NICKISCH: In this interview from more than a year ago, Ted Soyland said he had no idea these bracelets existed, or that some were made to remember his son.
SOYLAND: Quite a shock, you know, because I never expected it.
NICKISCH: Ted asked for the bracelet, and Ann gave it to him.
SOYLAND: I got the bracelet.
NICKISCH: Whenever Ted got visitors, he'd pull it out to show them, reading it off.
SOYLAND: Chief Warrant Officer David P. Soyland. USA. 17th of May, '71.
NICKISCH: This bracelet, this unlikely connection brought Ted and Ann closer together. He looked forward to the days she was on duty. She'd bring her children by to visit on her days off. They called him Mr. Ted.
REMINGTON: It was just meant to be.
SOYLAND: Yeah. We're a good pair. We get along real good. She's got two cute little kids that I kind of give a gift now and then...
REMINGTON: Spoil them.
SOYLAND: Spoil them, yeah.
NICKISCH: This past August, Ted Soyland passed away at the age of 83. Ann Remington says while it's hard on her, she's grateful that Ted knew that his son is still remembered, more than 40 years after he went missing in action.
REMINGTON: You know, that was just touching to him just to have people not forget.
NICKISCH: The bracelet's now with Ted's surviving family. On this Memorial Day, Ann Remington will be thinking of her brother, the missing soldier he commemorated with a bracelet, and the friend she found through it.
For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.