At Last She Gets It Off Her Hands (Howard J. Hill)

Diane Atkins and Howard J. Hill had never met, but for 17 years they shared a very special bond. Hill was an Air Force first lieutenant on Dec. 16, 1967, when the tail of his Phantom F-4D was blown off over Hanoi by a North Vietnamese MIG-27. He ejected and parachuted into the arms of North Vietnamese soldiers. Atkins was a 22-year-old engineering technician in Lynn, Mass., when she contributed to a POW relief fund in 1969 and received a bracelet bearing Hill’s name. She wore it for years, but eventually consigned the bracelet to her jewelry box. She never forgot about Hill. “I always thought, ‘My God, I hope he’s OK.’ ” Then, on May 29, Atkins saw Hill being interviewed on ABC’s “20/20.” Hill, who was released in 1973, is now a colonel and senior adviser on POW and MIA affairs for the secretary of defense. Atkins contacted Hill through the Pentagon, and last weekend, at a ceremony in Hill’s honor at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Lynn, they met for the first time. “For 17 years, I’ve had this bracelet, and for 17 years I hoped and I prayed and I waited, and tonight’s the night I can give this bracelet back,” Atkins said. “It’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been able to do.”

Other Books You Might Be Interested In

Contact Us