In 1971 I was a member of The Waiting Wives Club in Charleston, South Carolina. We were so named because we all were waiting for the hopeful safe return of our husbands from Viet Nam.
There was a lady who never missed a meeting. She was so full of hope and encouragement for the rest of us.
It was a complete surprise when I discovered she had been waiting since 1967. Her husband was missing in action.
I joined the others in wearing a bracelet with her husband’s name on it. We joined her in the prayerful hope that somehow he would come home.
I wore that bracelet for a couple of years. His name was with me constantly. His name was Morris McDaniel.
Morris was born in Eastman, Georgia April 4, 1929. He lived in Fort Volley, Georgia at the time he left for Viet Nam. He looked forward to returning to his wife and three children.
Morris was in the Air Force and served as a fighter pilot. At the time he went missing, Major Morris L. McDaniel had flown nearly 100 combat missions.
On October 4, 1967, an F-105 Thunderchief (tail number 63-8346, call sign “Splendid”) carrying two crew members departed Korat Air Base, Thailand, on a night low-level strike mission over enemy targets in North Vietnam.
The last known contact with the aircraft occurred just after it refueled over northern Thailand and headed towards its target, and it was not seen again.
When the aircraft failed to return to base on schedule, electronic search efforts were conducted. The next day, search and rescue teams flew over the Thunderchief’s flight path but failed to locate a crash site or either of the crew members.
In 1973, 591 other American prisoners of war from North Vietnam. Morris McDaniel was not among them. It is said there were hundreds of men who were known or suspected to be prisoners who were not released.
I left Charleston in 1972 after the safe return of my husband. I lost contact with Mrs. McDaniel. However, I never forgot her.
I wonder how long she waited. How long before she took off the bracelet. I wonder if she ever believed he was truly gone … even as he was promoted to the rank of Air Force colonel in his absence … even as he awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) for heroism while participating in aerial flight … even as his name was added to the wall in this nation’s capital.
I wonder how she and her children lived the rest of their lives remembering him and considering whether he might still be alive, somewhere out there.
How long does one hope? If she remained as she was when I saw her after five years of waiting, I think she might still be waiting.
Or perhaps, by now, she might have joined him somewhere in the heavens. He would be 92 years old now in earth years.
In any case, this Memorial Day, I remember her and I remember him. And I pray for all the victims of war. I look forward to that time foreseen by the prophet, Isaiah.
“And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.”