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New Justice Center Display Honors POWs, MIAs

October 1, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

There’s a new addition to Bucks County’s Chair of Honor display in the lobby of the county Justice Center.

A display case containing the POW / MIA bracelets for eight men who went missing in the Vietnam War – three of them still missing; five of them now accounted for – was dedicated recently on National POW/MIA Recognition Day as a reminder of the ongoing “You Are Not Forgotten” message of the day. IMG_0403 (2)

“These bracelets honor those who have not returned home,” said Col. Mark Sherkey, New Jersey’s Inspector General, who spoke at the brief ceremony held Sept. 20. “Remember that there is a story behind every one of those … who are still missing. A story of what was, and what was never to become.”

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, about 82,000 U.S. service personnel have not been accounted for since World War II. POW / MIA bracelets became emblematic of Vietnam War, from which more than 1,500 who served remain unaccounted for today.

During the Vietnam War, a Levittown woman named Evelyn Lyons, whose son, Frank, was serving in the Air Force in Southeast Asia, began distributing and selling POW / MIA bracelets that she had ordered from out of state. One of Mrs. Lyons’ sons, Thomas, wore one of the bracelets for decades.

Evelyn Lyons died in 2018 at the age of 92. By then she had given her son, Thomas Lyons, her remaining five bracelets, in addition to the one he already had, to keep for posterity.

Earlier this year, Thomas Lyons was at the Justice Center and saw the Chair of Honor display that Clerk of Courts Mary K. Smithson had helped to create in 2015 – an empty seat in recognition of unaccounted-for service people who never made it home.

Lyons decided to offer the six bracelets in his possession to Ms. Smithson for whatever use she chose. Bracelets for two other missing servicemen were subsequently donated for the display case, which was created by the county’s General Services Division. IMG_0384 (2)

The bracelets “were created to remind Americans that soldiers were not to be forgotten,” Smithson told the approximately 70 people gathered for the dedication ceremony. Thomas Lyons “came into our Justice Center, saw our Empty Seat, and asked if we could find a special place” for the bracelets his mother had left him.

Of the two other bracelets donated, one bears the name of a Bucks County man, Capt. Walter Sigafoos of Richboro, who went missing in Vietnam on April 25, 1971, and remains missing. His brother was on hand to help unveil the new display, assisted by county Veterans Affairs Director Dan Fraley.

County Commissioners’ Chairman Robert G. Loughery, an Army veteran, spoke movingly about his grandfather, who was captured by Germans in World War II and held as a POW. The Christmas before he died, Loughery’s grandfather finally opened up about the experience to his family, telling of his liberation from a prison camp by British soldiers with a tear in his eye.

Driving home, Loughery said, he kept reminding his daughters to remember “what Pop-Pop just told you. Don’t forget it and make sure you share it with others, because we need to honor those men and women who were in those positions, [and] those who never came home.”

Also speaking was Common Pleas Court Judge Gary B. Gilman, who said the criminal courts acknowledge veterans’ contributions through programs offering diversion and treatment to those defendants who have served in the military and do not have substantial criminal records. 

“The courage and sacrifice symbolized by the chair behind me will be further symbolized by this display of bracelets for POWs and MIAs,” Gilman said. “Hopefully we’ll be motivated by their sacrifices.”

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