Last week, I wrote an opinion piece that was published on Foxnews.com about what Veterans Day means to me. And then something amazing happened.
Loyal Candy readers might recognize that the story was a reworked version of a blog post I wrote for Memorial Day about my father’s Navy service in Vietnam.
The piece was accompanied by a photo of the bracelet my father wore from 1967-1973 bearing the name of a POW shot down in Vietnam. He wore it until the man– Commander Robert Doremus– returned home. My father wrote a letter to Cdr. Doremus when he returned safely, telling him what wearing the bracelet meant to him and thanking him for his service and incredible sacrifice.
My father died in 1993 so I can’t ask him details about that time, or if he ever got a response from Cdr. Doremus.
I Googled Doremus, but there were several others who share his name, and I couldn’t determine where he lived or even if he was still alive. When I sent the piece to Fox News, I knew it would get thousands of views and secretly hoped his family would see it and be able to fill in some blanks.
That’s why I wasn’t completely surprised when I got a comment on my blog from Doremus’ daughter, Barbara, the day after the story appeared. A friend of hers had seen my story and posted the link on Facebook asking her if she was any relation to the name on the bracelet.
She made a comment on my blog (there was a link to my blog at the end of the Fox piece) and asked if we could get in touch. Within hours, we exchanged emails and became Facebook friends. It was surreal to look at her Facebook page and read the thread about finding the story and wanting to contact me.
We spoke on the phone a few days later and there was an immediate intimacy I wouldn’t normally feel with a stranger. But through social media, we had learned a little about each other’s lives, and we had this shared meaningful experience.
Turns out, Barbara’s dad is still alive and nearly 80 years old. She called to tell him about the story but he had not seen it and promised to look for it online.
His war story is even more fascinating than I knew. He was shot down and declared dead for more than a year. Then a photo of him surfaced and the military changed his status from KIA to POW. He was held in Vietnam for 8 years before returning home.
I would love to know if he remembered my father’s letter or the bracelet. Thanks to the internet, I may find out.
Many on Barbara’s Facebook page read the story and said they got goosebumps. “What a small world!” was a common refrain.
It’s actually a huge world, but the internet can make it shrink.
I often resent the intrusiveness of the web and criticize social media for the self-indulgence it encourages. But this story– and the speed with which we daughters connected– is a tale of technology-done-good.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. Coincidence that this all happened so close to the milestone? I’m not so sure.
Although she lives in Florida, Facebook will help me keep in touch with Barbara, and hopefully her father. Dad would have loved that.