By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
The Sequim woman learned this week that the Vietnam-era bracelet bearing the name of the late Navy Cmdr. Vincent Duncan Monroe finally made it home.
Benson, a patriotic 76-year-old who spent years trying to find Monroe or his survivors, contacted the family in December.
She mailed the ornamental band to Monroe's son, James Monroe, in Tryon, N.C., a small town west of Charlotte.
“They just decided that it would mean the most to him,” Benson said.
James Monroe phoned Benson on Monday to say the bracelet had arrived safety.
“He was most excited to get it,” she said.
“I was quite emotional because I felt like this has been my baby all this time.”
Benson grew up in a military family in Sioux Falls, S.D. She proudly wore the POW bracelet that was inscribed with Vincent Monroe's name and his date of disappearance.
According to military records, Monroe was flying alongside Cmdr. Charlie N. James Jr. in Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 11 when their plane was shot down over North Vietnam on May 18, 1968.
James was released with 590 other Americans POWs in 1973.
Monroe died as a prisoner of war five years later.
After his remains were released to U.S. authorities, Monroe was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
He was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.
Meanwhile, Benson went on with her life — she moved from Bellevue to Sequim about 20 years ago — not knowing that Monroe had died.
She vowed to wear the bracelet until Monroe came home, dead or alive.
Benson learned that Monroe had perished in Vietnam when her sister spotted his name on a traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Burlington about 10 years ago.
The search for Monroe became a search for his survivors.
Benson developed an attachment to Monroe as she researched the stories about his service aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.
He was only a year-and-a-half older than Benson, “the kind of guy I could have gone to school with,” she said in an earlier interview.
With the help of some family members, Benson tracked down Monroe's sister in late December.
A former classmate helped Benson find Monroe's surviving wife, Suzanne, and son in North Carolina.
“I was corresponding back and forth with the wife,” Benson said.
“She said her son really has held onto this loss of his dad for all these years and has been a crusader and such.”
Along with the bracelet, Benson sent James Monroe a pencil-rubbing impression of his father's name from the memorial wall.
James Monroe was grateful to receive the bracelet, Benson said.
She, too, was pleased to close the chapter on its journey.
“When it took so long, I had almost given up hope,” Benson said.
“Things just fell into place this fall.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.