Queen Creek veteran overwhelmed by POW bracelets

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

It’s been more than forty years since Thomas E. Collins III has been released from a prison camp, but people keep finding him. 

The former Air Force fighter pilot and Prisoner of War was captured, beaten and tortured during the Vietnam War.

“Machine fire got me. So the F-4 (aircraft) went out of control, rolled upside down and I barely got out. I injured my back and my ankle when I hit the ground because my parachute really never got fully open,” said Collins.

That was on October 18, 1965. He was released February 12, 1973.

“We were considered lost, forgotten,” said Collins.

Fast forward to today, Collins is reminded that people still remember.

Right now, he is enjoying retirement in Queen Creek and unexpectedly collecting POW bracelets with his name on them.

POW metal bracelets were popular in the 1970s. According to the National Museum of American History, they were a way “to honor and increase the awareness of POW/MIA soldiers” without getting mixed up in the controversy of demonstrations and protests.

“When people call me (saying they have a POW bracelet with my name on it)… I said no you keep it. It’s your memento,” he said. “They send it to me anyway.”

Now, he has a bucket overflowing with them.

“I don’t know how many. I never had counted them,” he said.

“I really appreciate it. It’s amazing to me,” added Collins. “I’m glad they found me.”

It's unknown how many of the POW metal bracelets were made in his name.

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