Thursday, June 11, 2009

For Maj San Fransico, USAF (MIA)

In the fall of 2005, I joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Central Washington University.  I had never seen a POW/MIA bracelet until I met one of the Juniors there.  Being the dazed and confused Freshman that I was, I never asked him about it though and what it meant.  Two years later (his senior year) though, we had become pretty good friends.  On his commissioning night, he came up to me and explained what the bracelet was all about... 

Maj San D. Francisco graduated and commissioned from our detachment some years ago.  As a 1st Lt during the Vietnam war, he was deployed to serve his country.  On 25 Nov 68, while riding backseat in an F-4, he and his pilot were shot down.  Though both ejected and landed safely, radio contact with Francisco was lost about half an hour later.  A combat search and rescue was scrambled to go in the same day, but was unable to get to the pilots due to small arms fire near the area of the crash.  The next day, Maj Morrison (the other pilot) was able to reestablish communication with a Forward Air Controller (FAC) but when the rescuers arrived on scene, the weather had gotten worse and were unable to make visual contact with Morrison.  No contact was ever reestablished with either of the two.  On 26 Nov, a Vietnamese newspaper congratulated the people responsible for downing an F-4 and capturing both pilots.  The two were listed as POWs.  Unfortunately, after the release of many POWs in 1973, neither of the two were among those lucky enough to make it back home.  Since then, Francisco's status has been changed to MIA and has also been promoted to the rank of Major. 

Lt Rowbotham (the senior who told me the story) then took off the bracelet--which I had never seen him without in the two years I'd known him--and told me that it was traditon for a graduating senior to hand down the bracelet to either a freshman or sophomore on or around commissioning night.  That night, the bracelet was being transfered over to my care and to be placed under my responsiblity.  He went on to say that after our Detachment found out about what had happened to Francisco, the Det (detachment) bough a bunch of these bracelets.  Over the years, people have lost them or kept them, with the exception of this one bracelet which has stayed in the Det.  It went without saying, though he made a point of it, to NOT LOSE IT.  The second part of the this tradition is that every person who has worn the bracelet has gotten a coveted pilot slot.  Now I had a lot riding on me not to both lose the bracelet or break the "good luck" which came with it...I needed to get a pilot slot my junior year. 

Two years, and a wicked tan line, have gone by since I was given the bracelet.  This Saturday (13 Jun '09), I will ask a certain cadet (sophomore) to talk with me in private. I'll tell him the story of Maj Francisco.  I'll also tell him, though it goes without saying, not to lose it.  And I'll explain the tradition behind the bracelet.  I'll tell him that every cadet who has worn it has gotten a pilot slot (I'll be going to Laughlin AFB, TX in Dec and will begin my pilot training there!)  He will have two years to find a worthy cadet.  A cadet that will make it through the program, that knows how to push it up, and is very likely to get a pilot slot, but most importantly, a cadet that will be proud to wear Francisco's personal memorial. 

Two years have gone by, and I've grown very attached to keeping the faith alive that San Francisco is still out there fighting a war to come home, and I will NEVER forget him (and my other brothers/sisters).   That is why I just bought a new bracelet.  Not one to break tradition, I'll hand over this bracelet, and will soon be sporting a new one that I will keep until San Francisco is found and comes home.  Thank you for taking the time to hear this story...and for still remembering that we have warriors still out there who need to come home.  God bless!

2d Lieutenant Michael Rivera, USAF

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