POW/MIA Tragic Realities and a Love Story

On a warm December morning, we met Carole and Jim Hickerson at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. We were invited to attend an Arrival Ceremony for the recovered remains of six World War II and Vietnam War military personnel. Their transfer cases would then delivered to the forensics lab for identification, family notification and burial. Carole and Jim retired to the island of Oahu and attend a half dozen of these solemn ceremonies each year.

Carole and Jim Hickerson at arrival ceremony Hickam AFB

Carole and Jim Hickerson at arrival ceremony for U.S. military personnel at Hickam AFB December 9, 2011

It is important to this pair to pay their respects to those who gave all for their country and they attend as many Arrival Ceremonies as their schedule permits. The remains of Carole Hickerson’s husband, a Marine pilot, came through Hickam in this manner in 2002. His body was escorted home, in full dress uniform and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

During the years her husband was missing in action, Carole was frustrated by the lack of transparency from the U.S. government. There was no communication on the progress in finding and returning those service personnel who were unaccounted for during the war. While her husband was missing, she designed the image which later became the well known graphic on the black POW/MIA flag. She is quick to note she is not responsible for creating the flag itself.

Around 1970, my Godmother, Joyce Mary Moses, gave me a silver POW/MIA bracket inscribed with a soldier’s name and the date he went missing in action.

“Lt. Roger B. Innes, MIA 12-27-67″

Carole Hickerson was instrumental in developing the POW/MIA bracelet program to build awareness and public support for the return of our soldiers. I wore this bracelet for many years until the metal fatigued. In March of this year, I visited the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Washington D.C and found the name Lt. Roger B. Innes etched on one of the panels.

Roger B. Innes , a solder killed in action, on Vietnam Memorial Wall Washington DC

The name, Roger B. Innes, a solder killed in action during the Vietnam War, on Vietnam Memorial Wall Washington DC

Carole and her current husband Jim met through National League of Families of America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia.

Jim Hickerson, a U.S. Navy Captain, was a prisoner of war in Hanoi after his aircraft was shot down over Vietnam. He spent five years in the notorious Hanoi Hilton. Carole stated while Jim was a prisoner of war, his then wife “decided not to wait for him.”

Now retired from the Navy, Jim is active with the privately funded Pacific Aviation Museum on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island. He enjoys military history and all the back stories that make the past come to life. Jim shared this story with us:

“A girl was buried on the U.S.S. Utah which sank on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the twin daughters of the ship’s captain had died and the captain brought her remains aboard prior to the attack. The ship was prepared to sail the next day and the grieving father planned to bury his daughter at sea. The ship never sailed out of port. It was one of the many ships bombed and sunk just after dawn that day. The captain and his daughter’s body were forever entombed in the wreckage. Jim says this back story came out when the surviving twin visited Ford Island later in her life.”

Carole and Jim are celebrating 37 years of marriage. Congratulations to you both!

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