Bucks County’s Chair of Honor display, in the lobby of the county justice center, features 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.
“These bracelets honor those who have not returned home,” said Col. Mark Sherkey, New Jersey’s inspector general, who spoke at a ceremony. “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 the 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.
Evelyn Lyons died in 2018. 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 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 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.
The bracelets “were created to remind Americans that soldiers were not to be forgotten,” Smithson told some 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 Commissioner Robert Loughery, a U.S. Army veteran, spoke about his grandfather, who was captured by Germans in World War II and held as a POW until his liberation.
Also speaking was Common Pleas Court Judge Gary 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.” ••