GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A heartwarming tale of Valley strangers coming together to celebrate a fallen Vietnam War hero took place in Gilbert tonight.
Lawrence Evert (or Jerry to those close to him) was on his 41st mission in Vietnam, not even scheduled to fly when his plane was shot down on November 8th, 1967. "He would have been coming home that day for her birth, and then gone back," said Jerry's son Dan Evert.
Jerry left behind a wife Wanda and four kids. "We have two heroes in our life," Dan said. "First my dad died for our country, and then my mom lived and raised us."
The Everts learned most of what they know about their dad accompanying President Clinton on a trip to the site where the plane crashed in Vietnam in 2000. But since then, they've learned a little more. Liz, the youngest of the Everts who was due on the day her dad died, first heard his voice on a tape to his mom when she was 46 years old. "The fact that they're still in existence, I'm so grateful," Liz Meeks said. "Because I've gotten to know him and his personality through those tapes."
Now, some more new family history: a copper prisoner of war bracelet with Jerry's name on it, thanks to an unlikely local connection in Mesa resident Linda Powell. "It belonged to my aunt," Powell said. "She passed away 40 years ago, but I do remember her wearing it."
When Powell found the bracelet going through her mom's belongings the day after this past Mother's Day, she reached out to Arizona's Family trying to find its owner. "Once they return home, you're supposed to return it to the family," said Powell. "So that's what I'm doing here."
"Thank you," Dan replied.
It's not the first bracelet the Everts have received. But an in-person meeting makes it a little more meaningful for all involved. "It's kind of a miracle that this is still ongoing," Liz said. "I'm 52 now, and I'm still touched by it."
"My father died for a reason," Dan added. "And that's what we celebrate today."
"I need to see if this soldier's come home," Powell shared. "And he did."