Hoping to come full circle with POW bracelet

Decades ago, a carefree young girl blithely wore a POW bracelet for more than five years of a soldier about whom she knew nothing, a memory that was revived last weekend when the now-Thornton resident returned to her childhood home on Long Island.

Diane Lemonides said her parents were preparing to move from their longtime residence and gave her the task of emptying a chest that had served as a treasure trove of childhood memorabilia. Among the copious pen pal letters, art projects, and Girl Scout merit badges was the bracelet bearing the name of Capt. Glenn Cook: 10-21-69.

Diane Lemonides wore Capt. Glenn Richard Cook's POW bracelet for more than five years before putting it away for safekeeping.

Diane Lemonides wore Capt. Glenn Richard Cook's POW bracelet for more than five years before putting it away for safekeeping.

“It wasn’t what I expected to find among piles of letters,” she said. “I know I wore it all through middle school and part of high school and that I had put it somewhere,” she said, adding that the discovery prompted considerable discussion with her husband and two sons, 19 and 20.

“I realized that he was just a few years older than my sons when he went missing, and that hit close to home,” said Lemonides, who runs Verve Marketing and Design. “But I had no other information.”

Determined to remedy that, Lemonides used part of the car ride home to begin sifting through material on the Internet.

She learned that Glenn Richard Cook was born on Sep. 10, 1945, in Charlotte, N.C. He graduated from the Citadel in 1967. Cook, who had the nickname “Cookie,” served with the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron, 504th Tactical Air Support Group, 7th Air Force.

When Cook was deployed to Vietnam, he left behind his pregnant wife, his parents, who are now deceased; and a sister, Janice. His 0-2A Cessna observation aircraft went down on Oct. 21,1969, in the hills west of Nha Trang, and he was declared MIA at the age of 24.

Capt. Glenn Richard Cook

Capt. Glenn Richard Cook

Cook’s father made two unsuccessful trips to find his son until January 1989, when the remains of Maj. John Espenshied, who was also on board Cook’s plane, were identified. Cook was declared dead in 1977, and his remains were never found.

“Cookie,’ I looked for you for days. I was almost in the trees myself a few times. I was never prouder of the AF than when we were looking for you. We tried our best, but the jungle was just too big and your O-2 too small, I guess,” a fellow air controller wrote on one of the online memorial sites. “Though our time together was short and our friendship just beginning, I have remembered you often. I'm truly sorry we couldn't find you.”

Online records show that Cook received a Purple Heart Medal for his combat-related wounds, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal,  and the Air Medal with Multiple Oak Leaf Clusters. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.

Lemonides, a lifelong pacifist, said she is proud that she wore the bracelet “with the hope that this man and all who served would return.” She said it’s impossible to imagine the heartbreak for the Cook family, especially the father’s failed overseas searches.

She said her quest to learn about Cook’s background has already paid dividends. It has facilitated dialogue with others about the importance of family and made Lemonides eager to research her own ancestry. It has also forced her to slow down, she said. “It’s a distraction from the craziness of daily life,” she explained.

Lemonides is hoping to send a letter to a flight paramedic who appears to be Cook’s son, asking him if he would like her to send him the bracelet. Contacting him by phone or email didn’t seem appropriate, she said.

“I want him to be able to have time to reflect,” she said, adding that the bracelet had rested for many years amid a pile of letters.

Noting the serendipitous nature of her finding - in the same month that Cook disappeared and at a rare time when both of her sons were home from college – Lemonides said she would be content whatever happens. “I’m not tied to the outcome, which is unusual for someone who is goal- and task-driven,” she said. “It’s going to unfold the way it was meant to be.”

 

 

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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